The animal rights extremist group Mercy For Animals is known for making false accusations against farmers and agri-businesses. With their “undercover investigations,” they typically lie to gain employment and then secretly film ordinary farm operations. After a little time spent editing and doctoring their footage to make normal animal care look like abuse, they announce to the world that they have discovered another farm that abuses animals. Their goal is always to try to deter people from using animals. Their ideal of “compassionate food choices” means they don't want you to eat meat. That's why they have a vegan Thanksgiving menu headlining their web site at the moment.
The group recently released one of their videos attacking the broiler chicken industry and Koch Foods. According to MFA and their video, screened for reporters in Mercy For Animals' hometown of Chicago, “live chickens were slammed into crates, dumped in scalding hot water to remove their feathers, and killed by having their chests and throats cut open.”
The video is introduced and narrated by Sam Simon, creator of “The Simpsons,” who has established an animal rights foundation bearing his name. In the video, chickens seem to be mishandled by employees (kicked, thrown into crates), and the narration claims that the birds are regularly bled out and scalded while still conscious and sentient at the Koch processing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Other shots purport to show that the barn and processing facilities are filthy and infested with maggots and cockroaches.
A spokesman for Mercy for Animals said, “This is sickening animal abuse that no company with morals should support,” and they denounced Chick-fil-A for buying their chicken from Koch.
There are just a few problems with the narrative that Mercy for Animals is selling here.
First, Chick-fil-A hasn't bought chickens from Koch Foods since April of 2013. Whoops. Second, we happen to have firsthand knowledge of some of the farms that raise chickens for Koch Foods and they are nothing like the scenes presented in this video. Koch Foods has strict inspection practices and requirements regarding feed, facilities, and their birds. We have visited one of the farms dozens of times and found it clean and well-run. There has never been any sign of animal abuse or anything like what is suggested in Mercy for Animals' video.
Third, we have even been to the processing plant in Chattanooga a couple of times and, while a processing plant may not be a fun place to visit, it's run professionally and efficiently and does what it is supposed to do without abuse.
According to the National Chicken Council, animal welfare expert Temple Grandin reviewed the footage in this particular video and said there was “no overt animal abuse” at the plant.
Koch Foods replied to the video:
The hidden-camera video released Wednesday by the Mercy for Animals organization is an example of “inaccurate and out-of-context depictions of its chicken processing plant” in Tennessee, Koch Foods said in a statement.
“The chicken processing business is a highly regulated industry … and our company works hard every day to ensure our employees and contractors follow strict regulations … and guidelines from the National Chicken Council (NCC),” said CEO Joe Grendys.
The statement noted that the company has been in the poultry business for more than 25 years and that the Tennessee facility featured in the video has 16 inspectors on each production shift. Independent contract chicken catchers the company uses also must adhere to the NCC’s Animal Welfare Guidelines, the same standard for the Chicago-based company's employees.
“Koch Foods is also regularly audited on its animal welfare practices by an independent auditor. The Chattanooga facility last completed such an audit in September of this year. The auditor found no violations of animal welfare practices in the live or processing operations for the Chattanooga complex,” the statement said.
“As the CEO of the company, I take these allegations very seriously, as I should. The company will not stand for a violation of the important processes and standards that we have in place. Koch Foods will remain vigilant to ensure it continues to operate in a humane, clean, and safe manner,” Grendys is quoted as saying.
I don't have any problem eating chicken after I visit the farm where they are raised. If anything, I have a greater appreciation for what goes into raising the birds.
Mercy for Animals has harassed Butterball Turkeys (multiple times), dairy farmers (multiple times), hog farmers, duck farmers, and many other farmers over the years. The next time they announce to the world that they have found horrendous animal abuse at a farm, stop and consider the source before you believe them.