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Egg Company CEO Responds to HSUS Criticism of Farm Conditions

13 April 2012, at 1:55pm

US - Undercover video at a commercial egg company shows the need for federal legislation, according to an animal welfare organisation. The company’s CEO and President says the allegations are unfounded.

An undercover investigation conducted by Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in February and March of 2012 revealed a range of severe problems, including inhumane treatment of animals, at an egg factory owned by Kreider Farms in Manheim, Pennsylvania.

Of the nation's 280 million egg-laying hens, Kreider cages approximately seven million at its four Pennsylvania facilities, located in Manheim, Mt. Joy, Middleton, and Lebanon. Pennsylvania is the nation's third largest egg-producing state. The following problems, among others, were documented by the HSUS investigator:

  • Birds were severely overcrowded in cages more cramped than the national average; each hen received only 54 to 58 square inches of space on which to spend her life.
  • Injured and dead hens, including mummified bird carcasses, were found inside cages with living hens laying eggs for human consumption.
  • Hens were left without water for days when a water source malfunctioned, causing many to die.
  • Hens’ legs, wings, and heads were found trapped in cage wires and automated feeding machinery.
  • A thick layer of dead flies on the barn floors caused a crunching sound when walking on it.

HSUS says that in addition to keeping hens in deplorable conditions, Kreider Farms is one of the few egg producers in the US which does not support federal legislation aimed at improving conditions for America’s laying hens, and providing a stable and secure future for egg farmers.

The bill in the US Congress, H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, would phase in new housing systems for hens over the next 15 to 18 years, providing them far more space and ensuring that cages contain environmental enrichments such as perches and nesting areas.

Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS, said: “This new exposé underscores why we need a minimum federal standard for the housing of laying hens. Our investigation shows that major egg producers can just go their own way, ignore even the most modest industry standards, and cause incredible stress and harm to birds.”

The HSUS and the United Egg Producers, the nation’s egg industry trade association, which represents 90 per cent of US egg production, had been long-time adversaries. But they have come together and identified a solution for housing 280 million laying hens – a solution that balances animal welfare and the economic realities of the industry. The nation needs this kind of problem–solving, and the HSUS is calling on Kreider to join the rest of the egg industry in supporting the federal legislation. Kreider is not a UEP member.

According to HSUS, H.R. 3798, which has more than 50 co–sponsors in the House, has also been endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Avian Pathologists, Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League, state egg and poultry associations, hundreds of family farmers, and animal welfare groups. Editorials in leading newspapers have also commented in support of the legislation.

Kreider Responds to HSUS Allegations

Ron Kreider, President and CEO, and the third-generation family leader of Kreider Farms, made the following statement to the allegations, according to ABC News:

“Kreider Farms is considered one of the most progressive egg companies in the United States. The FDA tapped our family–owned farm to help train its inspectors in 2010. And Kreider has been awarded the Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award by the US Poultry & Egg Association, an award that is given annually to only a handful of US farms.

“We are leading the industry by tearing down old, traditional–style egg houses and replacing them with new, state–of–the–art facilities. More than 80 per cent of our chickens are housed in larger, modern cages. By comparison, 80 per cent of US caged egg production still houses birds in older, traditional–style cages.

“It is public knowledge that The Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) has partnered with United Egg Producers (UEP) to petition the government for national egg production standards. Kreider Farms is not a member of UEP, but we fully support such legislation. More regulation would actually benefit Kreider Farms; with our state-of-the-art facilities, we would have the least to do to comply.

“The allegations by HSUS are a gross distortion of Kreider Farms, our employees and the way we care for our birds. We have no evidence of undercover activity inside our facilities, and there is no evidence that HSUS video footage was taken inside Kreider Farms. There are still many unanswered questions regarding how and when this video was shot, edited and assembled.

“Based upon HSUS's recent accusations, three official, spontaneous inspections of our chicken houses were held on April 11, including from the Pennsylvania State Board of Veterinary Medicine. All three inspections provided us with a ‘clean bill of health’.

“Our birds are clean, active and healthy. We believe HSUS’s allegations are unfounded,” wrote Mr Kreider.