Abusive Slaughterhouse Billed $67 Million For Recall

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CHINO, Calif. — The federal government said Thursday it has billed a California slaughterhouse more than $67 million for expenses associated with the largest beef recall in U.S. history.

The Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of beef in February after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing plant employees abusing sick or weakened cows at the Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Co. An agency review found that some of the so-called "downer" cows were slaughtered in violation of USDA policy, which prompted the recall.

The USDA billed the plant $67.2 million on April 4 for more than 50 million pounds of beef the government purchased for the National School Lunch Program, said Craig Morris, deputy administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.

Further bills for the cost of destroying the beef and resupplying affected schools could cost up to $50 million more, Morris said.

If the plant can't pay _ which is likely _ taxpayers will pick up the bill, officials said.

An attorney for slaughterhouse owner Steve Mendell did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.