Entries in Sparboe Farms (5)


Ryan Gosling, Other Celebs on McDonald's Egg Suppliers: I'm Hatin' It

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Hollywood stars Ryan Gosling, Zooey Deschanel and Steve-O are urging McDonald's to improve animal welfare and do away with farming chickens in battery cages at their egg suppliers, saying of the practice, "I'm Hatin' It."

In a letter, which takes a swipe at McDonald's famous "I'm Lovin' It" tagline, the celebrities criticize McDonald's for receiving eggs from egg factory farms "that confine hens to most of their lives in cages," and call on the company to recognize its "moral responsibility" and switch to cage-free suppliers.

"On behalf of compassionate people everywhere, I implore you to help end the needless suffering of these animals by adopting strict and meaningful animal welfare policies worldwide, including the commitment to prohibit the purchase of eggs produced by hens who spend their miserable lives crammed into tiny wire cages," says the letter, which is addressed to McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner and is also signed by celebrities Alicia Silverstone and Maria Menounos. "While McDonald's brags about the 'billions and billions served,' millions of hens exploited for your restaurants are being grossly underserved."

The letter, dated Monday, follows an ABC News 20/20 report in November that showed undercover video shot by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals of one of McDonald's former largest egg suppliers, Sparboe Farms, that showed purportedly cruel conditions including hundreds of chickens packed into small battery cages, sometimes apparently living on top of the remains of other trampled birds.

McDonald's, which dropped Sparboe as a supplier after the ABC News report, said that Skinner had not yet received the letter, but the company has been looking into cage-free options already.

"McDonald's cares about how our food is sourced and we have a long history of action and commitment to improve the welfare of animals in our supply chain around the world," the company said in response to news reports on the letter. "In the United States, we are a founding member of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) and are participating in an unprecedented three-year study that compares traditional, cage-free, and enriched laying hen housing systems on a commercial scale. For our customers, that means we're working with scientists and suppliers to determine the most optimal hen housing method considering impacts on hen health [and] welfare, food safety, environment, and other important factors. As a result of the study, McDonald's USA is purchasing approximately 1 million eggs per month from each of the housing systems, including cage-free."

"Scott," the activist who shot the undercover video at Sparboe Farms, said that five to seven birds were kept in each small cage, with their beaks cut at an early stage so they wouldn't peck each other, and that each bird lived its life in an area smaller than a standard sheet of paper.

"There were [dead] birds that were left in the cages that were decomposing for weeks or months at a time," Scott said. "[They] had just been left there . . . in the battery cages with birds who were still alive and laying eggs for human consumption."

The videos also showed workers apparently breaking chicks' necks and swinging birds around by their necks. The investigation, according to Mercy for Animals executive director Nathan Runkle, "illustrates that McDonald's lacks the basic policies and oversight to prevent blatant animal abuse at its egg suppliers."

Battery cages are "the model of efficiency but they place an emphasis on profit over animal welfare," Runkle said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Animal Rights Group Accuses Sparboe Farms of False Advertising

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sparboe Farms, the embattled egg producer featured in a scathing recent ABC News investigative report, has been accused of false advertising by the animal rights group that captured video of alleged animal abuse at the company's factory-style egg farms.

Mercy for Animals has filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to investigate allegedly false claims made by Sparboe. The rights group says while the nation's fifth largest egg producer says its hens receive "five essential freedoms" to ensure their welfare, the company doesn't actually provide those freedoms. The group says Sparboe is misleading consumers who buy its eggs.

On the Sparboe Farms website, the "Animal Care Code of Conduct" states that the company's hens won't suffer from hunger, thirst or pain. It also says that Sparboe hens have "freedom to express normal behavior" and "freedom from fear and distress."

In the FTC complaint, Mercy for Animals calls these claims "blatantly false" and points to the hidden camera video taken by an undercover operative in the company's egg farms over a three-month period. The video, which showed animal abuse and unsanitary conditions at facilities in three states, first aired as part of the ABC News investigation. After learning of the results of the ABC News investigation, major Sparboe customers, including McDonald's and Target, severed their ties with the egg producer.

Mercy for Animals says Sparboe has given consumers a false picture of the procedures at its egg farms, claiming Sparboe has "company-wide, top-down policies aimed at maximizing profits at the expense of the health and welfare of the hens and chickens."

Sparboe did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Mercy for Animals complaint.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egg Producer Vows Improvement After ABC News Investigation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sparboe Farms, the embattled Iowa egg producer at the center of an ABC News investigation, has created a task force to investigate the company's operations, it was announced this week.

Calling it a "Sustainability Task Force," charged with "reviewing all current company practices in the areas of food safety, animal care and sustainability," Sparboe's president and owner, Beth Sparboe Schnell, announced the step in her first public statement since an ABC News report that exposed alleged animal abuse and unsanitary conditions at the nation's fifth-largest egg producer.

Sparboe Schnell says she decided to create the task force "so that we can make our company better." The members of the new task force will be made up of three Sparboe employees and three outside advisors. Sparboe Schnell says the company recently passed four third-party animal welfare audits, confirming the company is in compliance with policies.

Animal rights groups remain unconvinced that this step will be enough. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S., told ABC News, "Passing 'third-party audits' means little when the standards of that audit are anemic at best. Sparboe doesn't need a task force to understand what it needs to do."

Pacelle pointed out that Sparboe remains the sole major egg producer in the nation that has lobbied against a joint push by the egg industry's main trade group and the Humane Society to improve the welfare of egg-laying hens. The United Egg Producers and the Humane Society worked together on a bill to be introduced in Congress that would increase the amount of space allotted to each hen. Sparboe is not a member of UEP and opposes the new standard.

Sparboe Schnell, whose company was started in 1954 by her late father, says she was "shocked and deeply disturbed" when seeing hidden-camera video shot by an undercover operative for the animal rights group Mercy for Animals that exposed conditions inside Sparboe facilities. The video first aired on ABC News. Sparboe Schnell maintained that it was the "wrongful acts of a handful of bad actors" and that all employees involved have been fired. McDonald's, Target and other retailers announced that they would stop buying eggs from Sparboe after learning the results of the ABC News investigation.

"At Sparboe Farms, we expect our employees to provide the best care possible and follow our animal care code of conduct," Schnell said. "Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable, inconsistent with our values as farmers, and violate our animal care policies and procedures."

Nathan Runkle of Mercy for Animals said that Sparboe is ignoring the bigger issue of keeping hens in so-called "barren" battery cages, which he says prevent the birds from engaging in basic animal behavior. "This isn't a case of a few rotten employees, this is a matter of Sparboe subjecting every hen in its care to a lifetime of intensive confinement and deprivation. Sparboe's true actions on animal care issues don't line up with their PR rhetoric."

Sparboe Schnell also addressed an FDA warning letter sent to the company last week that detailed serious concerns after inspection of Sparboe's facilities. "Our team will continue to work with the FDA to successfully address the remaining concerns," Sparboe said, adding that the company has never had a single egg test positive for salmonella.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Target Hunts for New Egg Supplier Following ABC News Investigation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- In the wake of an ABC News investigation of its major egg supplier, Target is scrambling to find a new source of eggs, with shortages being reported at stores across the country just days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Spokesperson Jessica Carlson says the nation's second-largest retailer is working quickly to find a new source for eggs at its SuperTarget outlets after dumping Sparboe Farms, but acknowledged the timing isn't ideal for customers.

"We know and recognize that this is an important shopping time for guests, so we are working diligently to get eggs back in our stores as quickly as we can," said Carlson. She said prices would be unaffected, and that, "a vast majority of our stores will have some eggs in stock by the end of this week."

ABC News first exposed animal abuse and unsanitary conditions at Sparboe Farms' egg-laying facilities in three states. After being shown hidden camera video shot by Mercy for Animals, as well as learning of an FDA warning letter sent to Sparboe regarding unsanitary conditions, McDonald's was the first of Sparboe's customers to dump the egg producer, followed quickly by Target, which said it had ended its relationship because of concerns about "unacceptable conditions." Since the investigation aired on 20/20, other grocery chains have followed suit, including Midwestern retailer Lunds and Byerly's.

SuperValu, which supplies more than 4,000 stores across the country, has also suspended Sparboe. Spokesman Mike Siemienas said the change affected mostly independent grocers, not the company-owned chain stores, and it doesn't expect any disruption in supply to customers.

ABC News has also learned that Albertsons stores in Colorado have dumped Sparboe, which supplied eggs under the store's brand. A spokesperson for Albertsons said it was concerned with the violations reported and will closely monitor any federal or state investigations.

But Hy-Vee, a grocery store chain based in Iowa, will continue to sell Sparboe eggs, according to spokeswoman Ruth Comer. Comer told ABC News the retailer is taking the allegations seriously and will be conducting its own investigation, including inspecting Sparboe's facilities firsthand.

Sparboe Farms produces hundreds of millions of eggs at its facilities in Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota. The company has said it was outraged by the video shot inside its facilities and has fired all employees responsible for the animal abuse caught on tape. A Sparboe spokesman would not say whether other major retailers had dropped the company, calling the information confidential and competitive.

Target has nearly 1,750 stores in 49 states, including 240 SuperTarget stores which sell groceries.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


McDonald's Dumps McMuffin Egg Factory over Health Concerns

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's will be looking for a new source of eggs for many of its hugely popular Egg McMuffins.

The fast food company says it "will no longer accept" eggs from one of the country's biggest egg companies, Sparboe Farms.  The egg producer is the subject of an ABC News investigation to be broadcast Friday on 20/20 and World News with Diane Sawyer, and was cited Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration for "significant…and serious violations" in the production of eggs.

In one of the most forceful enforcement actions since last year's salmonella egg outbreak, the FDA issued a company-wide warning letter to Sparboe Farms, the country's fifth-largest egg producer.  Citing "serious" and "significant violations" at five different locations, the FDA noted at least 13 violations of the recently-enacted federal egg rule meant to prevent dangerous salmonella outbreaks.

"This is a warning that there is a systemic problem, not just at one barn or one location," said former FDA food safety chief David Acheson, now an industry consultant.

The ABC News broadcast will include undercover video taken over the summer inside Sparboe facilities in three states by an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals.  The footage appears to show unsanitary conditions and repeated acts of animal cruelty.

Until Friday, the Sparboe facility in Vincent, Iowa had produced all eggs used by McDonald's restaurants west of the Mississippi River.  In its statement, McDonald's said its decision to discontinue its relationship with Sparboe was based on concerns about "the management of Sparboe facilities."

"McDonald's expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner," the company said in a statement released overnight to ABC News.

The Mercy for Animals activist who went undercover to record the video inside Sparboe told ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross, "I saw workers do horrendous things to birds, they were thrown, grabbed by the neck, they're slammed in and out of cages."

Nathan Runkle, the executive director of Mercy for Animals, said the video shows how health hazards can be linked to large-scale, low-cost egg producers, so-called "factory farms."

"They're the model of efficiency but they place an emphasis on profit over animal welfare," said Runkle, who says he and his members eat no animal products because of the animal cruelty they have seen.

Sparboe executives told Ross the employees seen on the tape abusing the chickens were all fired.

"We have a zero tolerance policy," said Ken Klippen, Sparboe's director of government relations.  "People who violate that policy, we take that very seriously."

On a one-hour guided tour of the Sparboe facility in Vincent, Iowa, the source of all McDonald's eggs for restaurants west of the Mississippi, Klippen told Ross the Sparboe's facilities are "state of the art.

Sparboe has never had a single egg or chicken detected with salmonella, said Klippen, who added "there was no cause for any enforcement action."

A 2010 salmonella outbreak in the U.S. affected more than 1,900 people and was traced to a different Iowa egg producer, Wright County Eggs.  More than a half-billion eggs had to be destroyed, and the episode produced a nationwide health scare over the safety of eggs.

Salmonella in eggs is easily killed when both the white and the yolk are cooked until they are hard.  Many of those sickened last year ate custard at a California catering hall that used eggs from Wright County Eggs.

Since that outbreak, federal authorities promised stepped-up inspections and enforcement, and FDA officials said this week's action against Sparboe Farms was part of that effort.

McDonald's says its customers should have no health concerns because all of it eggs are thoroughly cooked before being sold.

"This is not a food safety issue for our menu items," McDonald's said in its statement.  "We can assure our customers that eggs in our entire supply chain meet McDonald's high standards for quality and safety."

As to the allegations of animal cruelty, a spokesperson said the behavior seen on videos provided by 20/20 was "disturbing and completely unacceptable."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio