The HSUS’s latest undercover investigation has exposed extreme animal suffering at massive industrial chicken production and slaughtering facilities connected to the factory farm giant Pilgrim’s Pride. Pilgrim’s Pride is a Brazilian-owned food company that is the second largest chicken producer in the United States, producing more than a billion chickens a year.
In May, an HSUS undercover investigation documented egregious cruelty to animals at a slaughter facility owned by Pilgrim’s Pride in Texas. The HSUS continued our investigation into June and found disturbing abuse of chickens at an industrial farm in Georgia raising chickens under contract for Pilgrim’s.
Despite animal welfare assurances made by Pilgrim’s Pride, we documented major problems at both facilities. In Georgia, the facility’s owner bludgeoned chickens with a metal rod—revealing that the problems at this facility start right at the top. Our investigator concluded that the owner abused these birds to make catching them easier.
The owner also twisted birds’ necks in crude attempts to kill them, and grabbed animals by their necks and threw them around—seemingly, just to let off steam. The investigation documented animals packed wing-to-wing by the thousands, with their living environment thick with ammonia and other waste. Bred to grow extremely large extremely fast, these chickens suffered crippling leg deformities and injuries that prevented some from even being able to walk to their food and water.
At a Pilgrim’s Pride slaughter facility in Texas we investigated, there were different practices but similarly intense suffering. Workers punched and slammed birds into and at metal shackles—for no apparent reason other than to cause suffering, and perhaps a manifestation of the numbing and morally deadening environment typified by conventional industrial slaughter. Despite declarations from Pilgrim’s Pride that employees handling live chickens receive animal welfare training, the HSUS investigator employed at this Texas facility received no such training whatsoever. During a full week of orientation, the words “animal welfare” never crossed the lips of the training team.
For the last year, The HSUS and other animal protection organizations have been calling on the poultry industry, along with every major food company that sells chicken, to address the leading causes of suffering in this sector. Our “9 Billion Lives” campaign has exposed the systematic mistreatment of chickens—revealing standard problems in the breeding, housing, and slaughtering of these animals.
In response, major brands—Burger King, Subway, Jack in the Box, Chipotle, Sodexo, Aramark, and dozens more—have announced plans to vastly improve their poultry supply chains in order to minimize the suffering of animals they sell for sandwiches and other food items. What this investigation highlights is how desperately those reforms are needed—and how poultry producers themselves must become part of the solution and not the incubators of the problem.
The HSUS is calling on all major food companies to play a part in this transformation. For those that have already pledged reforms: we urge you to press the issue with your suppliers until they agree to your animal welfare requirements—or else drop them from your supply chain entirely. And to those brands that have yet to pledge reforms: we call on you today to join others in your industry in demanding a better future for your birds.
In a food production system largely built upon the backs (and wings) of animals, we cannot continue subjugating their most basic needs to such a pitiful degree. We can do better for these animals, and we must.
You can read our full report on these investigations detailing exactly what we found here.