Egg-producing factory farm focus of undercover investigation

WiG report

The Humane Society of the United States on June 7 released findings from an undercover investigation at New England’s largest egg-producing factory farm that supplies eggs to several states.

The facility in Turner, Maine, is operated by Pennsylvania-based Hillandale Farms and owned by Jack DeCoster, described by the Humane Society as a notorious egg magnate whose “filthy facilities in Iowa led to a 2010 Salmonella outbreak that was the largest in the industry’s history and that sickened tens of thousands of people.”

The investigation was conducted in the spring at the complex — about 70 warehouses confine about 4 million laying hens, according to the investigators.

In the 10-unit factory farm where the HSUS investigator worked, about 450,000 hens produce 420,000 eggs each day.

The investigator found hens sharing cages with dead animals. Some of the birds were mummified and stuck to the wire cage floor, meaning they’d been lying dead in the cages for months.

• Hens confined in cages packed so tightly, the animals couldn’t spread their wings.

Hens were found trapped by their necks, wings and feet in rusty cages.

Hens were found with bloody prolapses.

Hens were found with facial abnormalities.

Hens were found standing in waste.

Equipment was found coated in cobwebs, chicken feathers and feces.

Poisoned rodents were found and cages and combined with chicken manure to sell for fertilizer.

Chicken manure build-up in barns oozed on floors.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, wrote in a statement, “The last year has seen a torrent of announcements from major companies like McDonald’s and Walmart touting that they’re starting to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs.

“As important and exciting as these corporate policies are, as of today, nine out of 10 egg-laying chickens in the United States are still locked inside cages where they can’t even spread their wings. We must accelerate the transition away from these inherently inhumane production systems and embrace a cage-free future.”

Hillandale Farms issued this statement in response to the investigative report:

“At Hillandale Farms, we take great pride in the quality of eggs we produce and have high standards for hen care and egg safety.

“When we took over management of the Maine farms last July, we were aware the barns were aging. Since then, we have invested in equipment and process upgrades to enhance our production operations, as well as expanded training for our team members.

“We reviewed the video and we are investigating the practices in the barns where this footage may have been captured to ensure this is addressed immediately. The worker who shot the video did not meet Hillandale’s standard of care and is no longer employed by us. For example, it is our practice that any mortality be removed from cages within a day.

“We have engaged our farm veterinarian, food safety and quality assurance teams to act swiftly to assure that we meet or exceed all animal health and food safety guidelines. In addition, we have reached out proactively to ask the Maine Department of Agriculture to conduct an immediate inspection.”

On the Web…

The egg industry in the United States.

Undercover investigation of a Hillandale egg farm in Maine. — The Humane Society of the United States
Undercover investigation of a Hillandale egg farm in Maine. — The Humane Society of the United States

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