The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released a video in early January which the activist group said was recorded at the Butterfield Foods spent fowl slaughter plant in Minnesota. I wrote a few blog posts exploring some aspects of the video with representatives of HSUS and Butterfield Foods. My posts received more responses than just about anything else I have written.
My questions to Butterfield and HSUS were aimed at only one thing: finding the truth. I strongly suspect, but have no direct evidence, that “investigators” sent into animal production and processing facilities either engage in or encourage others to perform the very acts of animal cruelty that they record on video. Many in the poultry industry agree with my assessment.
Companies do need to do as good a job screening potential employees as they can to try and avoid hiring an “investigator” to work in one of their facilities, and legislation outlawing the video recordings, so-called “ag-gag” laws, may have a place as well, but ultimately these aren’t the real answers. The answer for animal agriculture is to look at all processes involving live animals with a critical eye and to fix problem areas. The critical eye you need to look through is that of the engineer, veterinarian and average consumer. I’ve worked in the slaughter end of broiler and turkey plants in my career. When giving plant tours, we would try to steer the tour around the kill room. Should we have done this, or should we have made the kill area somewhere we could be proud to show the public?
I know that some aspects of processing or in the layer may never be pretty, but we can do a better job than we currently are doing. The payback for improvements made in live handling and hen housing won’t just be in the optics; my guess is that grade and yield will improve as well.