McDonald's Drops Inhumane Egg Supplier -- Problem Solved?

Mercy for Animals/Screen capture

Another undercover investigation from Mercy for Animals has revealed conditions at Sparboe Egg Farms, a company that supplied eggs to McDonald's until the video was released.

Mercy for Animals is not new to undercover videos of animal cruelty, including to baby chicks.

And the latest video, which features hidden-camera footage filmed at Sparboe facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado, is just as shocking. But it did inspire some pretty quick action: McDonald's dropped the supplier after news of the investigation broke and the Mercy for Animals video was shown on Good Morning America—and after Sparboe received a warning letter from the FDA regarding "serious violations."

Mercy for Animals says it found the following abuses, all featured in the video below:


  • Workers burning off the beaks of young chicks without any painkillers and callously throwing them into cages, some missing the cage doors and hitting the floor
  • Workers grabbing hens by their throats and ramming them into battery cages

  • Rotted hens, decomposed beyond recognition as birds, left in cages with hens still laying eggs for human consumption

  • A worker tormenting a bird by swinging her around in the air while her legs were caught in a grabbing device - violence described as "torture" by another worker

  • A worker shoving a bird into the pocket of another employee without any regard for the animal's fear and suffering

  • Chicks trapped and mangled in cage wire - others suffering from open wounds and torn beaks
    Live chicks thrown into plastic bags to be suffocated

The Chicago Tribune quotes Beth Sparboe Schnell, president of Sparboe Farms: "Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers," and added that four people were found responsible for the abuses and terminated.

Bright Side?

While McDonald's gets some points for dropping the supplier once it became aware of these violations, there's no reason to think conditions aren't similar at any of its other suppliers. If the company didn't know about what was going on at Sparboe, there's little chance it knows what's going on at other facilities. And if it did know but only dropped Sparboe as a good PR move, then that leaves little hope for facilities that aren't being filmed.

In fact, McDonald's recently awarded one supplier with a long history of cruelty and which the Humane Society of the United States says intentionally misleads customers about its animal welfare practices.

Frankly, there's no "incentive" for suppliers to be kind to their animals. Mercy for Animals writes, "not a single federal law currently provides any protection to birds at the hatchery, on the factory farm, or during slaughter. Further, most states - including those in which this investigation was conducted - have sweeping exemptions for farmed animals, which allow for abuses to run rampant without prosecution."

So good for McDonald's for breaking ties with Sparboe, but by no means does it eliminate problems elsewhere, whether it's with animals other than chickens or suppliers other than Sparboe.

Tags: Animals | Animal Welfare | Factory Farming

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