April 7, 2010
Appalling Cruelties at Nation’s Top Egg Producers
HSUS undercover investigation exposes suffering
In February and March 2010, an HSUS investigator worked inside four different factory farms, owned by two of the nation's largest egg producers. The scope of suffering that the investigator revealed was staggering.
This is not a matter of a couple of rotten eggs, but rather standard industry practices that are simply rotten. As investigation after investigation has shown, this cruelty is pervasive throughout the entire battery-cage egg industry. It's time for an end to cage confinement of laying hens.
Here's a look inside their operations.
Rose Acre Farms
The HSUS investigator worked at Rose Acre Farms, the country's second-largest egg producer, for 15 days during February, working at three facilities in Winterset, Stuart, and Guthrie Center, Iowa.
These factory farms confine nearly four million laying hens and about one million young hens (pullets). At the Guthrie Center location, battery cages are stacked eight high and hold more than two million birds. At the Stuart and Winterset locations, battery cages are stacked four high.
Our Rose Acre findings:
- Broken bones: Workers roughly yank young hens (pullets) from their cages in the growing sheds and load them into mobile cages for transport to battery cages, resulting in a mass of twisted bodies.
- Extremely rough handling: The HSUS investigator videotaped workers pulling young hens from the mobile cages and stuffing them into battery cages.
- Cruel depopulation methods: The HSUS investigator documented workers grabbing hens by their legs, then cramming them into gassing carts where they're killed with carbon dioxide.
- Prolapsed uteruses: Hens suffer from "blow-outs" that go unnoticed and untreated due to the cage crowding.
- Trapped birds unable to reach food and water: Battery cages can trap hens by their wings, necks, legs, and feet in the wire, causing other birds to trample the weakened animals, usually resulting in a slow, painful death.
- High mortality in layer and pullet sheds: The HSUS investigator pulled dead young hens, some of them mummified (meaning they'd been rotting in the cages for weeks), from cages every day.
- Failure to maintain manure pits: According to one worker, the manure pit under a pullet shed had not been cleaned in two years. Rose Acre workers claimed that some hens are blinded because of excessive ammonia levels.
- Abandoned hens: Some hens manage to escape from their cages and fall into the manure pits below.
An HSUS investigator also worked for 10 days during March at a Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc., factory farm in Thompson, Iowa. Rembrandt is the country's third-largest egg producer, and this particular location includes 18 battery cage sheds. With about 300,000 birds per shed, this is a total of nearly 5.5 million laying hens.
Our Rembrandt findings:
- Injuries from overcrowding: Rembrandt confines six to seven hens in each battery cage. Smaller or weaker hens are often trampled by others.
- Trapped hens: Hens' wings, necks, legs and feet become entangled in cage wires, often resulting in trampling, as well as death by starvation and dehydration.
- Broken bones: Workers sometimes slam battery cage doors shut on birds' wings, legs, and necks, causing broken bones.
- High mortality: During his first two days on the job, the HSUS investigator pulled scores of decomposed and mummified hen carcasses that were obviously weeks old.
- Eye and beak infections: The HSUS investigator videotaped hens with abscesses that caused their eyes to close and beaks and mouths to swell.
- Prolapses: The HSUS investigator pulled many dead hens from cages who had obviously suffered uterine prolapses. One live hen's prolapse became caught in the cage floor.
- Failure to euthanize: Sick and injured hens were often put back into their cages instead of being euthanized.
- Abandoned hens: The HSUS investigator found starving hens in manure pits.
- Lengthy transport: Rembrandt does not kill "spent" hens on site but rather trucks them to a Minnesota slaughter plant. As a result, the birds are violently yanked from their battery cages, confined in mobile cages, and trucked to the plant.