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McDonald's drops egg supplier over cruelty charges

world Updated: Nov 19, 2011 13:05 IST

AP
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McDonald's Corp. said on Friday that it had dropped a Minnesota-based egg supplier after an animal rights group released an undercover video of operations at the egg producer's farms in three states.

The video by Mercy for Animals shows what the group calls animal cruelty at five Mercy for Animals facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado. Its images include a worker swinging a bird around by its feet, hens packed into cramped cages, male chicks being tossed into plastic bags to suffocate and workers cutting off the tips of chick's beaks.

"The behaviour on tape is disturbing and completely unacceptable. McDonald's wants to assure our customers that we demand humane treatment of animals by our suppliers," Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president for sustainability, said in a statement.

The move also followed a warning letter to Sparboe Farms dated Wednesday from the US Food and Drug Administration that said inspectors found "serious violations" at five Sparboe facilities of federal regulations meant to prevent salmonella. The warning said eggs from those facilities "have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health."

Officials with Sparboe Companies LLC didn't return phone calls, but the company issued a statement calling the video "shocking" and saying an internal investigation identified four employees "who were complicit in this disturbing activity" and were fired this month.

"I was deeply saddened to see the story because this isn't who Sparboe Farms is," owner and president Beth Sparboe Schnell said in a statement posted on a company website. "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."

Sparboe, which is headquartered in Litchfield, also said on the website that it has made management changes, taken corrective actions sought by the FDA, and begun retraining all barn workers in proper animal care procedures.