Des Moines, Iowa An animal rights group publicized a video Tuesday showing unwanted chicks being tossed alive into a grinder at an Iowa plant and accused egg hatcheries of being “perhaps the cruelest industry” in the world.
The undercover video was shot by Chicago-based Mercy for Animals at a hatchery in Spencer, Iowa, over a two-week period in May and June. The video was first obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
“We have to ask ourselves if these were puppies and kittens being dropped into grinders, would we find that acceptable?” asked Nathan Runkle, the group’s executive director, at a news conference in Des Moines. “I don’t think that most people would.”
The group said that tossing male chicks, which have little value because they can’t lay eggs or be raised quickly enough to be raised profitably for meat, into grinders is common industry practice. United Egg Producers, a trade group for U.S. egg farmers, confirmed that.
The hatchery is owned by West Des Moines-based Hy-Line North America and is one of many operations in Iowa, the nation’s leading egg producer.
The video, shot with a hidden camera and microphone by a Mercy for Animals employee who got a job at the plant, shows a Hy-Line worker sorting through a conveyor belt of chirping chicks, flipping some of them into a chute like a poker dealer flips cards.
These chicks, which a narrator says are males, are then shown being dropped alive into a grinding machine.
In other parts of the video, a chick is shown dying on the factory floor amid a heap of egg shells after falling through a sorting machine. Another chick, also still alive, is seen lying on the floor after getting scalded by a wash cycle, according to the video narrator.
Hy-Line said the video “appears to show an inappropriate action and violation of our animal welfare policies,” referring to chicks on the factory floor.
But the company also noted that “instantaneous euthanasia” — a reference to killing of male chicks by the grinder — is a standard practice supported by the animal veterinary and scientific community.
Company spokesman Tom Jorgensen said Tuesday an investigation was continuing, and once it’s completed the company would release more information.
Runkle acknowledged that his group’s ultimate goal was to get people to stop eating eggs. He said he believe many would refuse to eat eggs if they knew what happened to male chicks.
“The egg industry is perhaps the cruelest industry on the face of the planet,” Runkle said.