Latest HSUS undercover investigation reveals painful practices in egg industry

By on June 7, 2016 with 16 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

An undercover investigation by The HSUS has revealed cruel treatment of egg-laying hens at New England’s largest egg producer. The factory farm in question supplies eggs to several states, including Massachusetts, where volunteers are just finishing gathering signatures to place a measure on November’s ballot. The measure would establish a commonsense retail standard for the sale of eggs and other animal products, disallowing the sale within Massachusetts of products resulting from extreme methods of farm animal confinement.

The Maine facility where we conducted the investigation is a massive complex of almost 70 warehouses that together confine some four million laying hens. It’s operated by Hillandale Farms and owned by egg magnate Jack DeCoster, whose filthy facilities in Iowa led to a 2010 salmonella outbreak for which he was criminally convicted. DeCoster is closely connected in business matters to Orland Bethel, the top guy at Hillandale, which now leases and operates the egg barns in the town of Turner, while DeCoster remains the owner of the facility. DeCoster and Bethel were at the heart of the 2010 egg recalls in Iowa and Ohio – a public-health crisis I wrote about in The Humane Economy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the outbreak sickened tens of thousands of consumers in multiple states. More than half a billion eggs were recalled due to salmonella at the operations run by these men, and DeCoster was sentenced to federal prison for his role in the outbreak.


As you can see in the video, our investigator documented a veritable house of horrors, including:

  • Hens confined in cages packed so tightly, they can’t even spread their wings.
  • Hens forced to share their cages with the rotting carcasses of dead cage-mates. Some dead birds are mummified and stuck to the wire cage floor. A worker told the HSUS investigator that when the birds are mummified like that, it means they’ve been in the cage (with living hens) “for months.”
  • Hens trapped by their necks, wings, and feet in the rusty wire cages.
  • Hens found with bloody prolapses and horrendous facial abnormalities. The HSUS investigator was told by his supervisor not to do anything for one such hen. “As long as it’s standing up and laying eggs, that’s all that matters.”
  • Poisoned rodents found in hens’ cages and combined with chicken manure to be sold for fertilizer.

The last year has seen a torrent of announcements from major companies like McDonald’s and Walmart touting that they’re starting to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs. These are tremendously encouraging announcements, and collectively amount to a repudiation of the battery-cage systems that have come to dominate egg production in the last half century. As important and exciting as these corporate policies are, as of today, nine out of 10 egg-laying chickens in the United States are still locked inside cages where they can’t even spread their wings. We must accelerate the transition away from these inherently inhumane production systems and embrace a cage-free future.

That process starts with a vivid reminder about what life is like in these battery cages and on these factory farms. That should provide all the motivation we need to close this ugly era of animal agriculture and start anew.

Farm Animals, Investigations, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. June Gollatz says:

    It is the hardest thing for me in this world to know that there are people that have no regard at all for any and all animals….how can you earn a living on a animal and yet treat it so very horribly wrong….do you not have any brain or are you that stupid or hateful? I cannot fathom this situation. I would love to treat these idiots in the same manner as they treat innocent and beautiful animals!

    • Richard Camp Mo State council member says:

      I could not say it better than June,s comment and thank her for it.
      Paul Shapiro is on my hero list as are those who did the undercover work.
      The consumer is the one who can put the abusers out of business. Just
      Tell us who they are and we will bankrupt them.

    • Girl onmission says:

      We need to shut them down. It’s a disgrace. They need to pay

    • Marie says:

      Stop supporting these people. They will stop when people stop supporting them.

    • Sarah High says:

      I agree! We have to stop this tragedy NOW!!!

    • Karen Peiffer says:

      Absolutely agreed!

    • ms says:

      I agree with June
      In addition cage free doesn’t guarantee any better conditions I’ve seen pictures of cage free hens where thousands are crammed into a small area,can’t spread their wings or get to food/water.They trample each other and have a mere 8″x10′ space if that we need better than just cage free Specific minimal standards of free range outside during proper weather to feel the sun,fresh air and pick at grass and stones,,,,natural behavior They can’t be crammed on top of each other The indoor quarters for night time and cold weather must be clean and spacious.common sense rules such as those should be DEMANDED and instituted .HUGE financial penalties for noncompliance

  2. Girl onmission says:

    Oops shut down

  3. Mary folland says:

    Very saddening every time.

  4. David McDermott says:

    Thank you for this revelation and your efforts to reveal this. Factory farming is disgusting and evil. Asian bird flu, swine flu and who knows what else are the health cost wages related to this sinful practice still the media does not go mainstream on this and the FDA does little as well. Why? Answer profit and greed before health and humane treatment of livestock. What can you tell us about the state of the cloned animal food market? The FDA RULED IN FAVOR IF THIS YEARS AGO. It was also decided that labels do not have to inform consumers that it is a cloned animal since there is no PROVEN health risk for consumption. Please tell us more about this issue.

  5. Suzanne Fratus says:

    Chickens and hens are abused all the time . Why can’t you just treat them with respect .?

  6. Nicki Hill says:

    I live in the UK and have rehomed 30 ex battery hens over 4 years and they are the best pet I’ve ever had. They were bald after rescue but their feathers soon grew back and they laid eggs because they wanted to, not because they werw forced to. They all had a lovely retirement with a garden to run around in, sunbathe on and have secret hidey holes where they laid their eggs. Caged hen, and even barn eggs are mass produced with no thought or consideration for their welcome. Sadly, supermarkets sell these and it is in the consumers’ hands to wise up and stop buying cruelty. When this happens, they will stop.

    • Li Kane says:

      I am really fortunate to have a friend with hens who gives me all the eggs I need during laying season. I need to start planning ahead to freeze eggs for holiday baking.

  7. Nicki Hill says:

    What I meant to say is “no consideration for their well being”. Sorry, predictive text is useless.

  8. riot says:

    homme le jour ou il n y aura plus de nourriture carné tu mangeras ton semblable dans les même condition que mes saintes soeurs poules qui elles sont innocente donc martyrs.

  9. Monica says:

    We demand justices for all innocent animals there is no need for all the cruelty towards innocent animals.

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