Mercy for Animals came out with undercover video showing FDA violations and animal cruelty acts at farms owned by Sparboe Farms, the fifth largest egg producer in the nation and the main supplier of eggs for McDonald’s. I’ve linked to the video below, but I’ll forewarn you that some of it is graphic. The undercover video was given to ABC who did their own special news coverage, including 20/20 and World News with Diane Sawyer episodes.
The video was released on the site McDonald’s Cruelty and I’ve seen multiple updates on my Facebook News Feed of people declaring they will never eat at McDonald’s again, though McDonald’s (along with Target) has already cut ties with the giant egg supplier. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not endorsing McDonald’s or saying that they aren’t to take any blame, but shouldn’t people be rallying against the egg supplier, too? It’s good to take action when something moves you, but I haven’t seen one update saying they will no longer buy Sparboe Eggs, which are sold right down the street and around the corner at the local grocery store. Sparboe and IGA are the two main and cheapest egg brands offered here.
I checked out the Sparboe website after watching the Mercy for Animals video and found their response to be rather interesting. The President, Beth Sparboe Schnell, had both a written letter and video on the site addressing the undercover video. She wrote:
I was deeply saddened to see the story because this isn’t who Sparboe Farms is. Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers. In fact, they are in direct violation of our animal care code of conduct, which all of our employees read, sign and follow each day.
Upon learning of the video, Sparboe Farms launched a comprehensive internal investigation. We have completed many interviews and reviewed audits, records and training documents. We have identified four employees who were complicit in this disturbing activity and they have been terminated. Management changes have taken place, and our investigation is ongoing. We will hold any others involved accountable for their actions. We are documenting all corrective actions taken.
Their animal care code of conduct states that hens must be given the following “five essential freedoms”:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
I have a question for Mrs. Sparboe Schnell. After you have terminated the employees who committed the acts of animal cruelty, how do you guarantee that your hens have freedom from discomfort, pain, fear, distress, and the freedom to express normal behavior when their beaks are burned off and they are stuffed in battery cages that barely give them enough room to turn around or stretch their wings? Where they can become entangled and injure themselves? But according to Ken Klippen, the Executive of Sparboe Farms, the housing conditions of the hens are “absolutely not” cruel. In fact, Sparboe’s facilities are “state-of-the-art.” Tell that to the FDA that cited Sparboe for unsanitary conditions, including insects, rodents, and dead chickens, which can all lead to salmonella. Salmonella bacteria is commonly transferred to chickens from rodent feces, but Sparboe maintains that it has never once had a chicken or egg infected with salmonella.
These kind of events aren’t isolated either. It’s not like Sparboe Farms is the only factory farm with problems. All of them have problems. Remember the salmonella outbreak in eggs just last year? Two farms in Iowa, Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg, that recalled eggs due to salmonella contamination, were found in serious violation of FDA regulations. Not only are these filthy and terrible living conditions bad for the chickens, but they are bad for our health. We should not be supporting practices that put profit before human and animal health and safety. These factory farms like to operate in secrecy for a reason. As the saying goes, if they had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.
Links to the undercover video and others of interest:
- Mercy for Animals’ Undercover Video: McDonald’s Cruelty: The Rotten Truth About Egg McMuffins
- Sparboe Farm’s Response to Undercover Video: Sparboe Update
- ABC Video (11/18/2011): McDonald’s Drops Large McMuffin Egg Supplier
- ABC’s Copy of McDonald’s and Target’s Statements: McDonald’s, Target Statement on Egg Farm Investigation
- ABC Video (8/30/2010): Filthy Iowa Farms Linked to Contaminated Eggs
So I’m interested in knowing, are you going to do anything different with what eggs you eat?