Westland/Hallmark Meat
westland/hallmark meat recall

When it was found that Westland/Hallmark didn't get the proper inspections, it resulted in the biggest meat recall in history.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

In February 2008, this became the largest meat recall in history. Interestingly, despite its massive scope, the recall didn't come as a result of illness reports.

Rather, the drama began when the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover video on Jan. 30, 2008, depicting employees of Westland/Hallmark mistreating sick cows [source: Martin]. The video caused the company to shut down voluntarily and raised the attention of the USDA, which launched investigations. Although their cows passed initial inspection, the company allegedly failed to alert inspectors when the cows became too sick to walk before slaughter. Such circumstances increased the risk that the meat carried mad cow disease.

Westland/Hallmark voluntarily submitted to the USDA's request for the recall of more than 143 million pounds (almost 65 million kilograms) worth of beef, even though health risks were "remote" [source: USDA]. This meat spanned two years of their production and much of it was already consumed before the recall was announced. The initial burdens of paying for the recall have fallen on retailers and schools among other recipients [source: Schmit]. Organizations have been tallying the damage and seeking reimbursement from Westland/Hallmark. By some estimates, the total will amount to about $117 million [source: Goad]. It's unlikely the company will ever reopen.