MINNEAPOLIS - The animal rights group that exposed animal cruelty by employees at Litchfield-based Sparboe Farms wants retailers to adopt new rules when it comes to the type of eggs they sell.
Mercy for Animals says it's time to change the entire egg industry.
Video of maltreatment of chickens taken at Sparboe Farms by Mercy for Animals has prompted McDonald's and Target to stop buying eggs from the egg producer.
But Daniel Hauff with Mercy for Animals says that's not enough. He wants the practice of housing hens in battery cages to stop. Hauff said, "They can't stretch their wings freely. They're unable to move away from other birds. They have their beak seared off with a hot blade."
Hauff put KARE in touch via phone with the man he said Mercy for Animals hired as an investigator, and who took the video while employed at Sparboe Farms from May to August. That man spoke only by phone Saturday on condition he not be identified. He said, "Each bird has less space to move around than a standard size sheet of paper they live their entire lives crammed 6 or 7 to a cage." He continued, "It is a deplorable way to keep these animals confined." Hauff made similar statements at a Saturday press conference in Minneapolis.
Hauff said over 95% of eggs in the U.S. come from hens housed in battery cages. So he said Mercy for Animals is sending letters to McDonalds, Target and also Walmart, Sam's Club and SUPERVALU, places it has found Sparboe Eggs, to ask them to "implement meaningful policy changes," and change the industry by only buying eggs from cage-free producers.
Hauff said, "If McDonald's cares about animal welfare it will move away from battery cages and un-cage these hens."
On its website, McDonald's issued a statement saying it cares how food is sourced and is part of a quote, "unprecedented three-year study that compares traditional, cage-free, and enriched laying hen housing systems."
Sparboe Farms president Beth Sparboe Schnell also issued a statement on the Sparboe Farms website saying that employees involved in the maltreatment have been fired and that the company is still investigating because it does follow an animal care code of conduct that ensures hens freedom from pain and fear.
But until there are no more cages, Hauff with Mercy for Animals is asking consumers to, ""Simply remove eggs from their diet."
SUPERVALU tells KARE 11 that Sparboe eggs were not sold in its Cub Foods stores, but through its distribution business and it is no longer getting eggs from Sparboe. Hauff said Sparboe eggs were found in an Albertson's store.
A Walmart spokesperson told KARE on Saturday that the company stopped doing business with Sparboe Farms about six weeks ago.
And Sam's Club issued this statement saying, "At Sam's Club, we hold our suppliers to high standards to ensure our members can count on us to provide safe food. All egg suppliers for Sam's Club meet the USDA guidelines for providing safe, sanitized eggs to our shelves and to our members. We are aware of Mercy for Animals' allegations and have communicated with our egg suppliers to ensure that quality standards and handling procedures are being met every day. Animal Welfare has been, and continues to be, an important concern for Sam's Club. We encourage all of our shell egg suppliers to actively investigate ways to provide for better animal welfare."
Mercy for Animals says McDonald's helped change the beef industry and the way cattle were slaughtered. It wants it to do the same with eggs.
Update on Monday, November 21st, 2011: Sam's Club is no longer selling Sparboe eggs. It has issued this statement.
"At Sam's Club, we hold our suppliers to high standards to ensure our members can count on us to provide safe, quality food. All egg suppliers for Sam's Club meet the USDA and/or UEF guidelines for providing safe, sanitized eggs to our shelves and to our members. With concern for recent allegations portraying detrimental management and animal welfare issues at Sparboe Farms egg laying facilities, Sam's Club has discontinued our relationship with Sparboe Farms as an egg supplier. Furthermore, we have reached out to all Sam's Club egg suppliers to ensure that quality standards and handling procedures are being met every day."
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)