The decline of the print media gets much attention.   So much so, that one sign of life for the print media goes un-noticed.   That is the rise of the number of Sunday newspapers.   We are a weekend people in this 21st Century, and newspaper publishers while often stupid are usually are not fools.

For that reason, according to figures from the Newspaper Association of America, the number of Sunday newspapers today is over 900, up from 549 in 1950.

We bring this up as an excuse because it sometimes takes us the whole week to get to what was really important in one of America’s Sunday newspapers.   In fact, we cannot really make any excuses because we should always check on what Phil Brasher at the Des Moines Register is reporting.

Last Sunday, writing from the newspaper’s Washington bureau, Brasher filed a story that ran online under the headline: Inspectors didn’t catch cattle abuse in California.

We ran across it on

That’s the website for the federal "badge-carrying" inspectors.  However, Brasher’s focus was not on those guys, but the "third party" auditors that the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co,. owner made the central item in his testimony to Congress.

In the system that grown up, we’ve been led to believe that meat packers are more likely to jump to their feet if one of their customers —like Jack In The Box or Sam’s Club– are in town with "third party" auditors.  This is suppose to relieve our worries about their not being enough federal inspectors around with those badges.  Brasher reports:

Independent inspectors from auditing firms based in Virgina and Illinois both missed the livestock abuse at the Westland/Hallmark’s Chino slaughterhouse that resulted in the plant’s entire production for the past two years – 143 million pounds – being recalled.

The vice president of HACCP Consulting Group, a Virginia-based auditing firm, inspected the California plant last Nov. 13-14 and reported that it had a well-designed humane-handling program "to ensure that live animals are treated in a manner conducive to the tenets of established humane-handling practices."

A week later, a representative of an Illinois-based auditing firm, Silliker Inc., graded the plant’s humane-handling practices according to an audit system that’s in wide use through out the meatpacking industry.

The plant received 106 out of a possible 110 points, including perfect scores on the condition of the cattle and the way they were unloaded and treated in holding pens.

How could a plant treat cattle poorly – the company president says he was sickened by what he saw on the videos – and yet pass its outside inspections with no problem?

One possible explanation is that the company knew the auditors were coming and cleaned up its act.

There’s a link to Brasher’s story here.