Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. chicken processor, is investigating a contract farm in Tennessee where activist group Mercy For Animals claims through an undercover video that birds are suffering in windowless sheds and enduring injuries.
Mercy For Animals also claims birds bred to grow too fast are being weighed down by their own weight. The group said most of the footage is from the past few weeks at a Tyson contract farm in Lewisburg, Tennessee, and some is from the past year at other farms and plants connected with the company.
The video is the latest charge against the chicken industry, which has come under fire by groups alleging abusive practices against animals and employees. Earlier this month, Oxfam America said workers in plants run by the largest U.S. poultry producers are regularly being denied bathroom breaks and as a result some are reduced to wearing diapers. The producers said that denying breaks would be against company policies, and the National Chicken Council said in a joint statement with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association that such instances are “extremely rare” and don’t represent the whole industry.
In October, Tyson fired two workers in Mississippi after a video from Mercy For Animals showed mistreatment of birds. Other videos from the group have focused on contract farms for other companies, including Perdue Farms Inc.
“It’s disturbing to us to see any sick or injured birds, which is why we have a track record of quickly addressing animal welfare concerns,” Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an e-mailed statement. “If our investigation into this farm uncovers anything wrong, we will immediately address it.”
Mercy for Animals is asking Tyson among other things to provide birds with more space, clean litter and access to natural light, according to a statement.
Tyson employs veterinarians and coordinates with third-party animal well-being audits of its contract farmers because the “health and well-being of the birds raised for us by independent farmers is extremely important,” Mickelson said. “Our veterinarians and animal health experts are looking into these claims, which re-use old videos about matters we’ve already investigated and taken action on,” he said.
Tyson’s animal well-being policy includes a pledge to pursue new methods and technology and emphasize responsible animal care. Animal well-being includes freedom from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury or disease, according to Tyson’s website.