The executive action puts a stop to the poultry processing speed increase rule that the previous administration approved towards the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, which was originally proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Food Safety and Inspection Service.
According to paperwork submitted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the proposal concluded with a formal withdrawal on Friday.
Biden’s reversal brings down the maximum number of slaughtered birds per line from 175 per minute back down to 140 per minute.
The move has been celebrated by leaders in the commercial food industry who worried about the health and safety of workers at poultry plants throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union commended Biden after his administration made its announcement Monday.
"Even though it has been less than a week since his inauguration, President Biden is already showing the type of commitment to the health and safety of frontline food workers that the American people expect and deserve, including actions to strengthen OSHA workplace safety enforcement and stop the dangerous push to increase poultry plant line speeds," Perrone said in a statement.
In the last year, several poultry and meat processing plants have endured coronavirus outbreaks due to social distancing challenges and increased workloads.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that COVID-19 transmission rates were particularly high at poultry plants that had waivers granting them to slaughter 175 birds per minute on processing lines.
“Of the 120 poultry plants in our sample, 48 plants currently have waivers, 16 of which were issued in 2020,” the study claims. “Among plants issued a waiver in 2020, the relationship is even greater in magnitude. This finding suggests a potential pathway between a livestock plant’s operating procedures and COVID-19 transmission.”
Pandemic aside, the USDA has repeatedly tried to increase the number of birds processed at poultry plants in recent years.