The animal agriculture industry is facing another round of unflattering headlines. The Humane Society of the United States on Thursday released video and photographs of alleged abuse and insanitary conditions at a large egg farm that supplies the mid-Atlantic region.
HSUS, an animal rights group loathed by the livestock sector, last year struck a historic deal with the egg industry to seek federal legislation for alternative housing for egg-laying hens, and now the group says the latest undercover investigation at Kreider Farms in Pennsylvania should propel Congress to act on the bill.
“The egg industry in the United States now supports legislation to provide legal protection for hundreds of millions of egg laying hens. Kreider Farms is one producer that disagrees,” said Paul Shapiro in the HSUS’ investigation video. “In fact, its standards are even less than the voluntary standards that the industry has right now.”
HSUS is alleging that Kreider Farms not only treats its 7 million birds inhumanely — the released video shows chickens packed in cages (which is how the vast majority of egg laying hens in the United States are kept) and dead birds stuck in caging — but keeps them in filthy conditions, which helps bacteria like Salmonella spread. The investigation found some manure and eggs tested positive for Salmonella.
There were “so many dead flies on the ground that our investigator described it as like walking on top of rice crispies,” said Shapiro.
Shapiro also said that the group’s investigation revealed that the egg farm is giving their birds far less space than is the industry norm. As Shapiro explained it, most egg producers give their birds 67 square inches of space, but the HSUS investigation said they found evidence that Krieder only gives birds 54 to 58 square inches, “truly as crammed as you can possibly get them.”
Kreider Farms responded Thursday by calling HSUS’ allegations a “gross distortion” and stating that the company is one of the most progressive egg producers in the United States.
President and CEO Ron Kreider said his company supports national egg production standards and noted that it had serious questions as to whether the HSUS footage was even taken inside their facilities.
“Based upon HSUS’s recent accusations, three official, spontaneous inspections of our chicken houses were held on April 11, including from the Pennsylvania State Board of Veterinary Medicine,” said Kreider in a statement. “All three inspections provided us with a ‘clean bill of health.'”
“We are leading the industry by tearing down old, traditional-style egg houses and replacing them with new, state-of-the-art facilities,” he added. “More than 80 percent of our chickens are housed in larger, modern cages. By comparison, 80 percent of U.S. caged egg production still houses birds in older, traditional style cages.”
Kreider also pointed out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been ramping up inspections of egg facilities over the past couple years, “tapped our family-owned farm to help train its inspectors in 2010.”
FDA did not immediately return a request to confirm inspector involvement at the farm.