Chicago-based Mercy for Animals released an undercover investigation into a McDonald’s egg supplier today. The results of the investigation were not unlike those of previous investigations. Using a hidden camera, a Mercy for Animals investigator went undercover at battery cage egg factory farms in Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado that were owned by Sparboe Egg Farms. Up until the exposé was revealed, all of the eggs used by McDonald’s locations west of the Mississippi River came from a Sparboe facility in Iowa.
The exposé documented rodents, insects, and large numbers of mummified corpses of dead birds in cages with live birds still laying eggs for human consumption. According to ABC News, “Citing “serious” and “significant violations” at five different locations, the FDA cited [Sparpoe with] at least 13 violations of the recently enacted federal egg rule meant to prevent dangerous salmonella outbreaks.”
In addition, the investigator filmed egregious conditions like “workers grabbing hens by their throats and ramming them into battery cages … 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,” and more.
The Mercy for Animals investigator filmed routine standard agricultural practices like the intensive confinement of hens in tiny wire cages so small each bird has less space than two-thirds of a sheet of paper on which to spend her entire twelve to eighteen month life; chicks having the tips of their beaks seared off with a hot blade without a drop of painkiller and live chicks slowly suffocated to death in plastic bags.
Sadly, although all fifty states have anti-cruelty laws, most of what the Mercy for Animals investigator documented, like debeaking, intensive confinement, and suffocation of baby chicks are considered standard agricultural procedures and it’s unlikely law enforcement will take any punitive action against Sparboe. McDonald’s, for its part, decided to switch suppliers telling ABC News, “McDonald’s expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner.”
McDonald’s will continue to purchase the vast majority of its eggs from suppliers that, like Sparboe, confine their hens in cages. I don’t know about you, but I think keeping animals confined in spaces so small they can’t move more than a few inches without touching another bird or the sides of their cages could never be considered humane. If McDonald’s truly cares about animal welfare, it will enact a policy requiring its egg and pork suppliers not to confine their animals in cages or crates. You can help by signing Mercy for Animals’ petition encouraging McDonald’s to stop purchasing eggs from caged hens and of course never buying them yourself.