By the end of March, doctors of veterinary medicine are expected to be deployed to the 15 district office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to oversee humane handling and slaughter practices at the estimated 7,000 FSIS-inspected meat and poultry plants.

FSIS hired and trained 17 veterinary specialists earlier this year. The specialists will serve as liaisons between the district offices and headquarters on all human handling matters, including the health of livestock and their suitability for slaughter.

"These experts will ensure that all plants, regardless of size, appropriately address their human handling responsibilities and other slaughter issues," according to Margaret O'K. Glavin, acting FSIS administrator. They will conduct on-site verifications, address foreign animal disease concerns and work on biosecurity issues.