- - news, features and articles for the meat processing industry


Turkey Producer Hits Back at Cruelty Allegations

10 June 2014

US - US turkey producer and processor Butterball has hit back at allegations of cruelty at one of its turkey hatcheries.

An undercover video shot by animal rights group Mercy for Animals is alleged to have shown cruelty.

However, Butterball said that after careful review of footage from an undercover video filmed at a Butterball hatchery, Butterball immediately launched an internal investigation and engaged its Animal Care and Well-Being Advisory Council to confirm that the footage adheres with established and expert-approved industry standard practices for poult handling, which have been approved by the National Turkey Federation.

Butterball’s Animal Care and Well-Being Advisory Council includes third party animal care experts Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University; Dr. Jesse Grimes, North Carolina State University; Dr. Michael Martin, North Carolina State University; Dr. Joy Mench, University of California-Davis; and Dr. Yvonne Thaxton, University of Arkansas.

“The undercover hatchery video I reviewed did not depict any animal mistreatment,” said Councilmember Dr. Joy Mench, Professor of Animal Science at University of California – Davis.

“As with any operational process, there is always room for learning and improvement, which is why our council encourages Butterball to continue its ongoing associate training programmes to ensure top-notch turkey care.”

While experts agree the video does not depict any willful acts of negligence or mistreatment, Butterball does proactively search for continuous improvement opportunities and will provide additional training and education to hatchery associates on animal care and well-being policies to include proper poult handling, transferring methods and management of facility equipment.

It is important to note that 100 per cent of employees, who handle live turkeys are trained and required to report any instance, or suspected instance, of animal mistreatment.

All employees are trained thoroughly on hatchery operations and animal care and well-being policies, including signing a form acknowledging they will report any suspected animal mistreatment in order to address it immediately.

Butterball’s ongoing, company-wide commitment to animal care and well-being includes:

  • Maintaining a zero tolerance policy for animal mistreatment, or suspected mistreatment by requiring all employees to report any concerns immediately.
  • Working with an Animal Care and Well-Being Advisory Council comprised of leading specialists in animal husbandry and care.
  • Enhancing animal care and well-being training curriculum for all associates, including regular mandatory training to ensure understanding and commitment to proper processes and protocols.
  • Maintaining American Humane Certified™ status through the American Humane Association.
  • Continually evaluating and strengthening our operational and on-farm processes.

Mercy for animals alleged that newborn birds were roughly and mechanically separated from their shells, often getting stuck and mangled in factory machinery

The group said the film showed turkeys having their toes and beaks cut and burned off without any painkillers and workers carelessly throwing, dropping, and shoving baby birds with no regard for their welfare and injured birds being dropped into a macerator to be ground up alive.

TheMeatSite News Desk

Our Sponsors


Seasonal Picks

Meat Cuts and Muscle Foods - 2nd Edition