Meat and Poultry Industry News / Turkey

Butterball issues full response to claims of turkey abuse in undercover activist video

Garner, N.C.-based Butterball LLC has issued an official statement in response to the release of an undercover video by an animal-activist group today. The statement reads as follows:

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Animal care and well-being is central to the operations of Butterball. We are committed to the ethical and responsible care of our turkey poults and have a zero-tolerance policy for any animal mistreatment. That is why Butterball has worked diligently to make significant improvements to its entire animal care and well-being program, inclusive of hatchery operations.

After careful review of footage from an undercover video filmed at a Butterball hatchery, Butterball immediately launched an internal investigation and engaged its Animal Care and Well-Being Advisory Council to confirm that the footage adheres with established and expert-approved industry standard practices for poult handling, which have been approved by the National Turkey Federation. Butterball’s Animal Care and Well-Being Advisory Council includes third party animal care experts Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University; Dr. Jesse Grimes, North Carolina State University; Dr. Michael Martin, North Carolina State University; Dr. Joy Mench, University of California-Davis; and Dr. Yvonne Thaxton, University of Arkansas.

“The undercover hatchery video I reviewed did not depict any animal mistreatment,” said Councilmember Dr. Joy Mench, Professor of Animal Science at University of California - Davis. “As with any operational process, there is always room for learning and improvement, which is why our council encourages Butterball to continue its ongoing associate training programs to ensure top-notch turkey care.”

While experts agree the video does not depict any willful acts of negligence or mistreatment, Butterball does proactively search for continuous improvement opportunities and will provide additional training and education to hatchery associates on animal care and well-being policies to include proper poult handling, transferring methods and management of facility equipment.

It is important to note that 100 percent of employees who handle live turkeys are trained and required to report any instance, or suspected instance, of animal mistreatment. All employees are trained thoroughly on hatchery operations and animal care and well-being policies, including signing a form acknowledging they will report any suspected animal mistreatment in order to address it immediately.

Butterball’s ongoing, company-wide commitment to animal care and well-being includes:

  • Maintaining a zero tolerance policy for animal mistreatment, or suspected mistreatment by requiring all employees to report any concerns immediately.
  • Working with an Animal Care and Well-Being Advisory Council comprised of leading specialists in animal husbandry and care.
  • Enhancing animal care and well-being training curriculum for all associates, including regular mandatory training to ensure understanding and commitment to proper processes and protocols.
  • Maintaining American Humane Certified™ status through the American Humane Association.
  • Continually evaluating and strengthening our operational and on-farm processes.

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Earlier, the animal-activist group Mercy For Animals had released an undercover video taken at a turkey hatchery in Raeford, N.C., owned by Butterball LLC. The group claims that the video shows “horrific cruelty,” including baby turkeys being routinely mutilated without painkillers, ground up alive in a macerating machine, and carelessly thrown, dropped and mishandled by Butterball workers.  

"This investigation graphically illustrates that a culture of cruelty and abuse continues to run rampant at Butterball facilities," said MFA's executive director, Nathan Runkle. "Lawmakers should be focusing on strengthening the state's animal protection laws and cracking down on repeat offenders like Butterball, not making animal abuse harder to expose. Consumers who buy Butterball turkey are supporting a company that beats, throws, and mutilates animals, and grinds them up while still alive. In a civilized society, this cruelty shouldn't be supported or tolerated."

Source: Butterball LLC, Mercy for Animals

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