HSUS investigation targets egg producers, processors

Organization claims inhumane treatment of spent hens at Minnesota processing plant.


The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed complaints with the Watonwan County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Agency claiming inhumane treatment of animals and potentially illegal cruelty occurred at southwestern Minnesota poultry processing facility.

On Monday, HSUS revealed the findings from a 57-day investigation and the accompanying video of the Butterfield Foods, Co.

Paul Shapiro, HSUS vice president of farm animal protection, said in a press conference that the hidden footage -filmed by its member during employment at the Butterfield plant- showed at times birds were not properly stunned before killing and still alive before being placed in tank of scalding water.

The Butterfield Foods plant processes approximately 85,000 hens per day, which are no longer useful for egg laying. These spent hens are normally processed for pet and animal feed but some facilities – including Butterfield- process the meat for human consumption, mostly shipped to the international marketplace.

Attorney for Butterfield told local media that the company denies any wrong doing. In addition, Butterfield processes and humanely handles birds in accordance to local, state and federal regulations.

The slaughter method depicted in the footage showed a blade used to cut the neck of the bird before it is put in a tank of scalding water to remove the feathers.

Further, Shapiro told reporters that the actions captured on video happened throughout the chicken industry and his organization is advocating for chickens to be included under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

“Just as the egg industry is starting to move away from the extreme confinement of animals in cages, the slaughter industry ought to be moving toward methods of slaughter that don't involve this type of risk where huge numbers of animals are being killed in unimaginable ways,” said Shapiro.

Minnesota ranks in the top ten for U.S. egg production, averaging 10.4 million hens producing nearly 2.9 eggs annually.

Minnesota's egg and chicken food producers are committed to providing excellent care of their birds at all times stated the Chicken and Egg Assoc. of Minnesota in response to the HSUS’s announcement.

Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the farms and the processing facilities to comply with the government regulations for farming and food production.  The health and welfare of the birds is a top priority for Minnesota poultry producers.

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