Area residents say carcasses of animals headed for a Dallas rendering plant often lie exposed at the Hull Street branch of Champion Pet Foods, Inc. for days, sometimes weeks. (Courtesy photo)
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Skinned cattle carcasses were visible Monday night from the bed of a cargo trailer. Flies buzzed around the exposed muscle and sinew. A terrible stench permeated the air.
Area residents said the carcasses of animals to be sent to a Dallas rendering plant often lie exposed at the Hull Street branch of Champion Pet Foods, Inc. for days, sometimes weeks.
The plant manager said the allegations are not true, though weekend transports can be slow.
Champion Pet Foods, based in Waco, Texas, replaced a New Mexico processing plant in October 2004. The Clovis plant removes brain matter from dead cattle and sends it to Texas A&M University to be tested for mad cow disease, according to the plant manager J.D. Ruthardt. The carcasses are sent to a Champion plant in Dallas to be turned into pet food.
The operating practices of the plant keep Angelina Baca-Rodriguez from enjoying her property, which is located about 1,000 yards from the plant, she said.
She said she has seen bloated carcasses, guts and entrails on more than one occasion, most commonly over the weekend. “It’s disgusting,” Baca-Rodriguez said.
On some days, the stench is so awful it’s hard to breathe, according to Sharon Flasche, who lives less than a quarter mile from the plant. Flasche said the carcasses are removed from the property usually when two trailers are filled. That sometimes takes two weeks, she said.
But Ruthardt said the company does not let the carcasses sit for long periods of time. He said the trailers are loaded on Saturday and picked up late Saturday or early Sunday, perhaps giving residents the impression that carcasses remain untouched over the weekend.
He said the carcasses remained untouched one weekend in September due to shipping complications related to Hurricane Rita. He said from his office Monday afternoon that he would be willing to negotiate to have pick-up days scheduled earlier on weekends and would cover the carcasses if complaints continue.
The carcasses are currently transported and stored uncovered. Ruthardt said he “never thought to cover the carcasses,” and drivers do not cover the carcasses because it would be messy.
Baca-Rodriguez is concerned the carcasses present a health hazard. She said neighborhood cats gnaw on the parts and the flies could spread disease. Though he said the rendering business is foul-smelling by nature, Ruthardt said it does not present a health hazard for residents.
Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said the city does not have any ordinances that would prevent companies like Champion from housing carcasses in the open.
Thomas said the city approached plant employees in September about Champion carcasses that remained unshipped over a weekend. Plant employees said it was an isolated incident due to the hurricane on the Gulf Coast and it would not happen again. But Baca-Rodriguez said the plant did not remove carcasses expeditiously last weekend. Ruthardt said the carcasses were removed early Sunday.
If residents continue to report slow shipping practices, City Commissioner Robert Sandoval said he would approach other commissioners and try to create a city ordinance preventing the company from storing carcasses uncovered and in the open for extended periods.
“If it happens again at any time, (the plant) should be cited. If it happened in any other part of town, we would be on it in five minutes. We can’t have a truckload of dead, bloated animals lying around,” Sandoval said.