Smithfield Foods, which has been accused for years of being one of the cruelest factory farm companies around, is also a supplier of pork to McDonald's, which recently gave Smithfield a "supplier sustainability" award for corporate responsibility. It has claimed it practices environmental stewardship and raises animals in "ideal" conditions.
But it's all a bluff, according to the Humane Society of the United States, which filed a complaint [PDF] with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday alleging that Smithfield has been making false and misleading claims. (As misleading as many advertising claims can be, federal law prohibits them from being outright false.)
The company recently launched a corporate responsibility initiative, including videos about its sustainable and animal-friendly practices.
HSUS has questioned the validity of such claims saying that the company and its subsidiary Murphy Brown continue to confine breeding sows in gestation crates that it says severely limit their movement.
According to HSUS, McDonald’s and Smithfield’s own animal welfare advisor, Dr. Temple Grandin, has stated that gestation crates “are a real problem” and “have to go.”
The Atlantic reports in McFib? The Conditions at McDonald's McRib Pork Supplier that Smithfield denied the allegations and said, "We are proud of our unparalleled track record as a sustainable food producer and stand confidently behind our company's public statements concerning animal care and environmental stewardship."
But, The Atlantic continues:
A 2010 undercover HSUS investigation, however, revealed information altogether to the contrary. HSUS found that Smithfield pigs were living in hellish conditions where basic needs were systematically unmet. Female pigs were crammed into gestation crates, preventing movement for most of their lives; many crates were coated in blood from the mouths of pigs chewing the metal bars of their crates; a sick pig was shot in the head with a captive bolt gun and thrown into a dumpster while still alive; prematurely born piglets routinely fell through the gate's slats into a manure pit; castration and tail docking took place without anesthesia; and employees tossed baby pigs into carts as if they were stuffed animals. The investigator saw many lame pigs but never a vet.