An animal-rights group sent some of its members undercover and what they found has resulted in McDonald’s ditching an egg supplier in Minnesota, according to the Associated Press.
What they found, as you might imagine, were some highly unpleasant acts taking place — the burning of beaks off of living chicks, the suffocation of male chickens, the overstuffing of chickens into small spaces, dead chickens being left to rot in the henhouse — and they captured every unpleasant detail on video (which you can watch here, if you're up for it) for all to see.
In the spring, the supplier in question, Sparboe Farms, unknowingly hired a few members of Mercy for Animals, who then secretly filmed outrageous acts taking place at Sparboe’s facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado, the AP notes. Sparboe was a subcontractor, so McDonald’s did not directly contract with Sparboe. The connection came through its relationship with Cargill Inc., which suspended Sparboe, the AP reports.
McDonald’s also made it clear that it had no idea that any such things were going on. "The behavior on tape is disturbing and completely unacceptable. McDonald's wants to assure our customers that we demand humane treatment of animals by our suppliers," said Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president for sustainability in a company statement, according to the AP.
The head of Sparboe said she had no idea such things were happening and told the AP via a statement that an internal investigation was underway and that the four employees in question had been fired. “I was deeply saddened to see the story because this isn't who Sparboe Farms is," owner and president Beth Sparboe Schnell said of the family-run business in a statement. "Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers. In fact, they are in direct violation of our animal-care code of conduct, which all of our employees read, sign and follow each day."
While McDonald’s has said it would no longer use Sparboe for its egg or chickens, Mercy for Animals would like something a little more from the fast-food empire — tougher contractor compliance language that would extend to subcontractors and promote free-range chicken farming. “McDonald's is simply sidestepping the issue now,” said Matt Rice, Mercy for Animals' director of operations, to AP. “It's time McDonald's requires all of its suppliers to uncage hens and finally give these animals the basic freedom to spread their wings, to walk and engage in other natural behaviors.”
PETA, of course, has been on McDonald's back for years about its food-sourcing. One thing McDonald’s has done is go cage-free as part of its Flagship Farms sustainable farming commitment in Europe, where consumers are more vocal about demanding free-range chickens, although it's still not doing enough to appease activists. (It's not just chicken, either, with McD's Europe also promoting sustainable fishing for its Filet-O-Fish meal.)
Things weren’t looking good for Sparboe even before Mercy for Animals released the video on Friday. Two days before that, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told Sparboe it "serious violations" about things that were put in place to help prevent salmonella had been found at five Sparboe facilities.
Below, watch McDonald's Europe explain its Flagship Farms program in Europe and tell us: Is such a policy needed elsewhere?