Bravo Packing: The Dirty Business of Pet Food Slaughterhouses

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Bravo Packing’s years of flouting food safety laws just caught up with it and the slaughterhouse’s latest legal troubles are in part due to laboratory testing Animal Outlook conducted on the company’s raw dog food in late 2020. Bravo Packing (not Bravo Pet Foods), a family-owned slaughterhouse in southern New Jersey that slaughters cows for dog food and horses for exotic animal food, is no stranger to controversy but the latest action by federal regulators represents the most serious enforcement action to date. 

On March 15, 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), acting through the Department of Justice (DOJ), took the rare step of filing a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey asking the federal court to halt production at the slaughterhouse due to the “grossly insanitary conditions” in which it produces food. The complaint reads like something from a different century. Foul, oily black substances and bits of crusted-on innards coat equipment. Pools of bloody water lie stagnant on the floor. Piles of feces are strewn about. Rats and cats scurry throughout the facility. Sickly cows and horses are slaughtered and strung up, their meat then piled in open barrels for processing into food destined for pet food stores and zoos.

The DOJ’s complaint cites a letter that Animal Outlook filed with the FDA in December 2020 alerting the agency to the presence of Salmonella on samples of Bravo Packing dog food that were tested at a private laboratory. Following Animal Outlook’s letter, the FDA conducted an inspection at Bravo Packing in April 2021 and took its own samples of raw animal food. The FDA later found that not only did several of these samples contain Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono), a dangerous pathogenic bacteria, but that the strain of L. mono found in April 2021 matched that of a separate sample taken all the way back in 2019. This means that the vile and unsanitary conditions in which Bravo Packing slaughters animals and processes animal food allowed the same strain of pathogenic bacteria to take up residence in the slaughterhouse for over two years. 

Just over a week after filing the complaint on behalf of the FDA, the DOJ entered into an agreement with Bravo Packing whereby the slaughterhouse would remain open, but only if it complies with a series of strict sanitation requirements. In addition to other requirements, Bravo agreed to pay for a laboratory to conduct ongoing food safety testing, hire a “sanitation expert” to assess its compliance with federal laws, train its employees on cleaning and handling requirements, submit regular reports to the FDA, allow unannounced FDA inspections, recall any food distributed since early 2021, and pay for the costs of enforcement efforts. Bravo Packing’s repeated violations of the law pushed the FDA to enter uncharted territory—the agreement represents the first time the FDA has ever entered into such an agreement with an animal food manufacturer.

The FDA’s current action is only the latest in a long line of troubles for Bravo Packing. Most recently, in June 2021, an Animal Outlook investigator recorded video footage of a non-ambulatory or “downed” cow, too ill or injured to stand or walk, being delivered to and cruelly slaughtered at Bravo in a protracted episode that we believe violated both federal and state law. 

In addition, Bravo Packing has faced numerous other troubles over the years, including: 

  • In March 2021, Bravo Packing, Inc. recalled both its Performance Dog and its Ground Beef frozen raw pet foods due to possible contamination with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes following the laboratory analysis conducted by Animal Outlook.  
  • In March 2020, the FDA issued a warning letter to Bravo describing filthy conditions and demanding compliance with federal food safety requirements. 
  • In September 2019, the FDA warned the public not to feed Bravo’s Performance Dog frozen raw pet food to their pets after samples tested positive for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes contamination in 2019.
  • In 2018, a consumer complained to the FDA that Bravo’s products contain meat “from dead, dying, and disabled livestock” in 2018.
  • In 2016, the FDA found that horse meat Bravo Packing had sold to be fed to exotic animals was “contaminated with Pentobarbital and Phenytoin” in 2016.
  • In prior years, Bravo Packing was the subject of animal cruelty complaints with one report describing horses that the slaughterhouse had kept to be slaughtered for their meat as “emaciated,” “starving” and “too weak to stand.” The report also described cows kept at Bravo Packing as “crippled with pain,” “unable to stand,” and with “flesh torn from their bodies.” 

Pet food falls in a curious regulatory gray area. Because the meat is not destined for human consumption, federal meat inspection laws do not apply, and food safety regulators are not in the plants around the clock. Animals slaughtered for pet food have often been rejected for slaughter for human food because they are too sick or injured. The result, in Bravo Packing’s case, has been an avalanche of filth producing persistent Salmonella contamination, and a strain of listeria that persisted in the slaughterhouse for years. 

While Animal Outlook is grateful for the FDA’s recent enforcement action, as long as places like Bravo Packing continue to operate and subject farmed animals to egregious cruelty and neglect and threaten the health of consumers, our efforts to expose the truth and deliver justice will continue. You can take the cruelty off your plate by going vegan—visit tryveg.com to get started now. We can only fight against animal exploitation with your support. Please donate today to help bring an end to horrific practices like those committed at Bravo Packing.

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