Bell & Evans, a hatchery in central Pennsylvania that provides chicken to many organic retailers in the area including Whole Foods, has machinery that tosses chicks about before sending them off to farms and disabled chicks are thrown into a meat grinder to die, the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing said.
The group conducted a weeks-long undercover investigation and released a video it said was shot at the Bell & Evans facility showing the inhumane practices, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday.
A Bell & Evans spokesman said the company had not verified the video was shot at its facility. The company has maintained it treats the chickens it grows in a humane fashion, including natural organic feed that's free of antibiotics. The company also exposes the birds to enough carbon dioxide so they are unconscious when slaughtered, avoiding having the fowl feel pain.
"We've always been very proud of what we do here," said Tom Stone, Bell & Evans director of sales and marketing. "We're proud of the way we treat animals."
Erica Meier, director of Compassion Over Killing, admitted the video does not show workers breaking animal cruelty laws and Bell & Evans is better than many other big chicken producers in treating animals humanely. But she said consumers who think they're buying cruelty-free chicken aren't getting what they're promised.
"Consumers who are looking for cruelty-free meat need to know about this," Meier said. "Anyone concerned with their meat being cruelty-free should recognize that animal cruelty is standard practice in this industry."