Humane Society releases video on ‘appalling' conditions at egg farms


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Humane Society releases new undercover video on egg farms

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

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Des Moines, April 7 - Tackling one more segment of production agriculture with a “hit and run” undercover video, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released undercover video footage Wednesday showing what HSUS describes as “appalling animal abuse at four egg factory farms.” Diseased, sick and long-dead laying hens were shown tightly caged above untreated manure pits which HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in some cases hadn't been cleaned out for two years.

Pacelle said that in responding to such conditions in what he called a “totally deregulated environment,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture “has not weighed in in any significant way.” He added that he is hopeful that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will take action. Conveniently, Vilsack is out of the country, as is Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey.

Owners of the facility might like to take action, too, especially if their workers were not following orders. But typical of HSUS tactics, one of the owners was not even allowed to see the video. Victor Rigterink, executive vice president of Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, IN, which owns the facilities at Winterset, Stuart and Guthrie Center where some of the video was shot, told the Des Moines Register:

“I would like to see that video. We just found out about it yesterday.”

Rigterink said Rose Acre Farms “in no way condones inhumane treatment. If we find our employees have violated our standards, they will be terminated,” according to the DMR's Green Fields Blog. Rigterink said each facility employs between 50 and 75 workers, who receive training before they go on the job.

To obtain the undercover video, an HSUS employee obtained work on factory egg farms and used a cell phone to tape activities. Pacelle said what HSUS argues is not that there was “deliberate malice” on the part of the farms but instead the problem is production systems which are “inherently inhumane.” He said “a very practical alternative” is already available and now provides 100% cage-free eggs to retailers including Wal-Mart where all private-line eggs now are cage-free.

The HSUS video shows what HSUS characterizes as “extreme and unacceptable conditions” at four different factory farms, owned by two of the nation's largest egg producers, Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises, the second- and third-largest U.S. egg producers. There are some 10 million birds at the facilities which were investigated, with one Iowa facility having 18 structures each confining approximately 300,000 birds.

The video records conditions over a 15-day period at Rose Acre Farms in February this year, showing three facilities in Winterset, Stuart and Guthrie Center, Iowa with 3.9 million laying hens and about one million pullets. The video also shows conditions over 10 days in March at a Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc., factory farm in Thompson, Iowa with some 5.5 million laying hens.

According to Pacelle, “Our investigation is a deeply troubling indictment of the battery cage egg industry in America, specifically implicating two of its top three egg producers. Misery and suffering are standard at these facilities, and this investigation reveals that animals simply cannot be properly cared for in facilities of this size and type.”

In response to the HSUS video, United Egg Producers (UEP), the leading egg farming cooperative for U.S. egg farmers representing 97 percent of U.S. egg farmers, announced that it is “conducting a full investigation stemming from undercover video shown today in Des Moines, Iowa.” UEP states that its investigation “could include interviews with farm management and employees, review of its employee training programs, review of any photographs, videotape or other materials; and a on-site inspection of the farm.” 

UEP notes that its Certification program “does not tolerate animal cruelty, intentional abuse or neglect. All employees and supervisors at UEP Certified companies are required to sign an Employee Code of Conduct. This Code of Conduct requires that ‘all birds will be handled with respect and dignity' and that ‘injured, sick or trapped birds need to be taken care of' and ‘proper euthanasia of sick, injured or cull birds will be conducted by a trained employee.'  Violation of this policy (either through the employee's direct actions or the employee's failure to notify management of observed abuse or neglect) may result in disciplinary action including termination of employment and could be cause for the farm to be de-certified by UEP.”

The UEP investigation will focus on Rose Acre Farms, one of the farms targeted by the undercover video and the only UEP Certified company mentioned. UEP Certified standards are designed to assure that egg farmers treat their hens in a humane manner. The guidelines require that all hens are handled properly, receive optimum space, nutritious food, clean water, proper lighting, and fresh air daily. The UEP statement concludes that:

  • “If deficiencies are found by UEP's investigation, they will be corrected or the farm could lose its UEP Certification. However, the other farm targeted by the video, Rembrandt Enterprises, is not a member of the UEP Certified program and cannot market eggs featuring the UEP Certified seal.”
  • “As the industry's leading animal welfare certification program, and one required by most retailers and food service companies, UEP takes alleged violations of its stringent guidelines very seriously and is working to ensure full compliance.”

To watch the HSUS video on egg farm conditions, go to:

United Egg Producers (UEP) members produce eggs including modern cage production, cage-free, free range, organic and other specialty eggs. UEP is based in Alpharetta, GA. For information on UEP, go to:

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