A Pennsylvania egg farm is under fire from the Humane Society of the United States after the animal rights group conducted an undercover investigation that it says netted secret footage of hens living in filthy, cramped conditions that put public health at risk.
Kreider Farms did not respond to repeated requests from The Times for comment. But Ron Kreider, the company president, told the Associated Press that the society’s report, posted on its website Thursday, was “a gross distortion of Kreider Farms, our employees and the way we care for our birds.” He said Kreider has “state-of-the-art facilities” and “more than 80% of our chickens are housed in larger, modern cages.”
For six weeks in February and March, the Humane Society had someone on the inside at Kreider Farms who used a hidden camera to document conditions there, society president Wayne Pacelle told The Times.
Among the “deplorable” conditions allegedly documented: Severely overcrowded cages, birds living and laying eggs alongside dead hens whose remains were ignored for so long the carcasses had “mummified,” hens that perished due to a lack of water, and instances of salmonella, Pacelle said.
The probe comes as the society is trying to build support for federal legislation that would improve living conditions for hens. The legislation already has the support of the United Egg Producers, the nation’s egg industry trade association, which represents the ownership of about 95% of the nation’s egg-laying hens.
Pacelle said the care of hens used for egg farming in America is largely unregulated. Although Kreider is not breaking the law, it is nonetheless guilty of inhumane behavior, he said. He called Kreider Farms an "outlier" in the industry, noting that the farm is not a member of United Egg Producers.
“All animals feel pain and suffering,” Pacelle said. “And no animal should have to endure this kind of extreme confinement and they should not have to live in filth. And when animals are overcrowded and live in filthy conditions, it compromises food safety.”
Pennsylvania is the nation's third-largest egg-producing state, and Kreider Farms is among its largest egg producers, the Associated Press reported. The farm supplies eggs and other products to stores in the mid-Atlantic region.
Many animal rights organizations have decried the treatment of hens on egg farms in recent years, but the Humane Society's study arrived with a splash: Noted columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote about it in the New York Times in a piece headlined, "Is an Egg for Breakfast Worth This?"