Before you crack another egg for breakfast, an animal rights group has a warning. The Animal Recovery Mission says it is blowing the whistle on the nation's largest egg producer - Cal-Maine.
They claim horrific conditions caught on video were allegedly taken at an egg farm in Lake Wales.
Animal recovery mission, or ARM, says one of its members applied for a job as a caregiver at the Cal-Maine Egg Farm in Lake Wales and shot video of hens stuffed into so-called battery cages.
“Battery cages are small cages, extremely dangerous for animals, and are considered the most inhumane structures to house animals in the world,” said Richard Couto, ARMS’s Founder.
In some images, the video appears to show birds which are wounded or dead, covered in feces. Their cages are infested by hundreds of roaches.
ARM says it wants Publix Supermarkets and Walmart, two of Cal-Maine's biggest customers, to stop doing business with them - or any company that uses the battery cage system. They would prefer grocers opt for free-range and cageless egg producers.
The animal rights organization also wants people who see the video in hopes some will consider giving-up animal-based products, or at least hope they’d be willing to pay the difference for eggs produced more humanely.
At a South Tampa Publix, we found the price difference was about two dollars a dozen.
“Yes, I would pay more. I would pay more for organic eggs. I would pay more for free range eggs, yes,” said customer Joanne Benson.
After seeing the video, customer Jackie Richard told us unless Publix acts, “I wouldn't by their eggs anymore.”
ARM also insinuated the filthy conditions in the video could pose a public threat, but the group couldn't say how many of the eggs produced show signs of disease.
As a result of the undercover work, at least one Cal-Maine employee has been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. The Polk County sheriff’s office identified that man as 38-year-old Matthew Faulkner.
The sheriff’s office says it found no criminal violations, and that their case is closed, but ARM says it witnessed several more acts of abuse.
“They were being trampled to death by workers. They were being thrown against walls. They were being stomped on,” said Couto, “They were actually being drowned in their own feces in the gallows. They were being torn apart alive.”
Cal-Maine released a statement saying, in part, that it follows all animal welfare guidelines. The company called this an isolated incident, and adds the employee seen in ARM’s video was fired.
Cal-Maine also says when the FDA was given access to the Lake Wales facility, they reported they did not find comparable conditions to what was shown on the video.
ARM hopes the video will put pressure on lawmakers to change the conditions that egg producers are legally allowed to keep livestock - including battery cages that the hens were squeezed into - as seen in the video.
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