Where do your eggs come from? The obvious answer is a chicken. Put a broader approach to the question and ask yourself: do you know where the dozen eggs you just bought at the supermarket came from?
It’s safe to say they came from a factory farm.
The HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) revealed yesterday a recent undercover investigation at Cal-Maine, the largest egg producer in the U.S. The HSUS agent was employed at one of two Cal-Maine’s Waelder, Texas, battery cage factory farms.
Photographs and video of the conditions and abuse were obtained.
The recent salmonella-induced egg recall from a few months ago apparently has done nothing to change Cal-Maine’s factory farming methods. Indeed, a recall of 288,000 Cal-Maine eggs occurred just last week due to salmonella. Cal-Maine is a company with $1 billion in annual sales generated through the suffering of 30 million laying hens.
HSUS reports some of the atrocities found from this investigation:
- Birds producing eggs for human consumption confined in overcrowded cages with the rotting corpses of other birds—some of whom had clearly been dead for days or even weeks
- Dead hens, trapped under the trough feeders of their cages, had died with their heads on the egg conveyor belts – exposing passing eggs to the decaying bird
- Birds trapped by their wings, necks and legs in the thin, rusty wires of the battery cages.
- Birds with severely injured legs, unable to reach food or water
- Birds suffering from severe, bloody uterine prolapses enduring the pain of other hens in the overcrowded cages stepping on them
- Hens in the bottom two tiers of battery cages often covered in feces from birds in cages above them
- Escaped hens often becoming covered in liquid manure from the filth of the shallow manure scraping pits, these hens can go from barn-to-barn through manure trenches or on egg conveyors
- Hens drowning, unable to escape the manure trench that runs underneath the cages and into the pipe leading to the outside lagoon
- Discarded dead hens left on floors, cage ledges and tops, and carts
- Eggs covered in blood and feces
This undercover investigation also revealed the number of workers responsible for direct inspection of the hens at this Cal-Maine factory farm — with over 1 million hens — was a measly five! Direct inspection includes checking for illness, injury and death.
Let’s do the math: 1 million hens divvied up between five workers comes to 200,000 hens per worker, per day, that must be inspected for “illness, injury and death.” Let’s assume each worker puts in an 8 hour day. That comes to 25,000 birds per hour. Further extrapolation brings it to 416.67 hens per minute, per worker. Obviously, not anywhere near that number of worker inspections can possibly be happening.
The results of such statistics can be found in the series of photographs taken during this investigation.
Action taken by HSUS as a result of this undercover investigation include letters to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and USDA (United Stated Department of Agriculture) asking them to “prioritize the inspection of this facility and to open up the Egg Safety Rule for revision to address the link between housing systems and Salmonella risk and to plan a phase out of the cage confinement of hens.”
Let’s hope they do!
For further reading on the battery cage issue, see these Care2 posts:
- Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Far-Reaching, Humane Egg Bill
- HSUS Files Complaint Against “Humane” Egg Farms
Flickr: Farm Sanctuary