I read that hogs are at times scalded alive during butchering in the United States:

The killing line moves so quickly that some of the pigs are still conscious when they are dumped into the scalding tank. According to a USDA swine inspection guide: “A hog that is scalded alive dies from asphyxia and will frequently have a scarlet red appearance and have organs that are engorged with blood.”

The Quora question "How are pigs killed for slaughter?" at https:// www.quora.com/How-are-pigs-killed-for-slaughter (warning: NSFW, graphic) echoes the claim:

[ During the process of slaughtering... ]

After bleeding out, he's dunked into a tank of scalding water to easily remove his skin. The killing line moves so quickly that some pigs are still conscious when they're dumped into the scalding tank. Workers confess that hogs often kick and scream in the scalding water and try to swim out.

Do USDA guidelines allow this to happen? How prevalent is this event?

  • I have clarified the question down to what I believe is the actual claim. (a) I've included the claim in the "reference" provided, which is not reputable; (b) I've extracted the two main points that make this answerable: whether this is a regular, allowed circumstance or not, and whether it is prevalent.
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 5, 2019 at 9:37
  • Also, please do not restore the link to the quora answer which is needlessly graphic and furthermore is extremely partisan.
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 5, 2019 at 9:38

1 Answer 1


Given that millions of hogs are slaughtered in the United States every month, it is entirely possible that workers do observe pigs being scalded alive. However, to the extent that USDA regulations are effectively enforced, pigs that are killed in this way should not be entering the food supply. This presumably motivates slaughterhouses to prevent it from happening very frequently.

The relevant federal regulations are very clear:

§ 311.30 Livestock suffocated and hogs scalded alive.

All livestock which have been suffocated in any way and hogs which have entered the scalding vat alive shall be condemned.

When an inspected carcass shows evidence of asphyxiation (the scarlet coloration in the organs mentioned in the OP), the USDA manual for post-mortem inspection (on page 18) continues to state that it "must be retained for veterinary disposition".

How many such carcasses are condemned, and how many more cases might be missed? That aspect remains an open question unless someone is able to dig up relevant data.

  • 6
    Certainly, the fact that there are federal rules explicitly about it reinforces the idea that it does likely happen sometimes.
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 5, 2019 at 23:21
  • @BenBarden or that it used to happen (hopefully accidentally) in the past and no longer should happen now. I seriously doubt it is done deliberately, the workers in abatoirs aren't there because they like torturing animals, in fact I doubt anyone who does would make it past the job interviews.
    – jwenting
    Mar 13, 2019 at 8:42
  • @jwenting Hopefully, sure, but the intent of the workers wasn’t the question. It may still happen frequently even if you are correct.
    – Brian Z
    Mar 13, 2019 at 10:33
  • @BrianZ it wouldn't surprise me if it still happened. If it were frequent however I seriously doubt it'd get by the FDA and other regulators without measures being required.
    – jwenting
    Mar 13, 2019 at 10:47

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