Cruelty Alleged at Leading Egg Producer

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Philadelphia Inquirer

April 13, 2012

Live chickens sharing cages with mummified remains of dead birds. Thousands of chickens dead of dehydration thanks to a water source malfunctioning. A carpet of dead flies so dark that workers in a poultry house needed headlamps to see.

Those were some of the things the Humane Society of the United States says its undercover investigation found at a large farm in Lancaster County, PA, that supplies eggs to ShopRite and other stores.

The Humane Society said the conditions its investigator found and videotaped at Kreider Farms in Manheim evidenced the need for a federal law governing treatment of hens in commercial farms. ?What we found was extreme animal cruelty,? said Paul Shapiro, the society?s vice president of farm animal protection.

The group offered a video, which it said was taped over a six-week period in February and March, showing cages with hens packed too tightly to spread their wings and laying eggs amid decomposing bodies of dead chickens. It also showed hens? limbs trapped in cage wires and automatic feeding machines.

?It?s an unsavory situation that there are laying eggs for human consumption amid mummified carcasses, with rodents and flies all around,? said Michael Markarian, the Humane Society?s chief program and policy officer.

Kreider Farms, which bills itself as the largest family-owned egg producer in Pennsylvania?the third-largest egg-producing state in the country?called the allegations ?unfounded? and described its birds as ?clean and healthy,? and housed in an award-winning, state-of-the-art egg facility.

Company president Ron Kreider issued a statement saying the Humane Society?s account was ?a gross distortion of Kreider Farms, our employees and the way we care for our birds.? Kreider Farms said it had spent millions of dollars to upgrade 80% of its poultry facilities housing 4 million birds at three locations.

The company supplies eggs to regional supermarkets, including ShopRite, which has stores in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey. A ShopRite official said she was surprised at what she saw on the video. ?We expect all of our suppliers to adhere to industry standards related to animal welfare practices,? said Karen Meleta, vice president for consumer and corporate communications.

She said the company had inspected Kreider?s three Lancaster County facilities in the past without issue but was dispatching its quality assurance team to Kreider?s three farm operations as a result of the video. ?We are looking into it and taking it very seriously,? Meleta said.

A 2008 investigation by the Humane Society into treatment of so-called downer or disabled cattle at a slaughterhouse in California led to the largest recall of meat in U.S. history and federal implementation of a new rule to prohibit processing of such cattle.

Markarian said that along with United Egg Producers, which represents most egg-producing farms in the nation, the Humane Society is pushing legislation to double cage size; provide nests, perches and scratching posts; and otherwise improve conditions for 200 million laying hens nationwide. Kreider?s statement said the company supported the proposed standards.

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