Hormel Foods, the Minnesota-based food producer best known for its pork products including Spam, says it will cease working with an Oklahoma supplier after undercover video footage revealed widespread abuse at the farm.
The video, released on Tuesday by Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy for Animals, revealed numerous abuses at Maschhoffs farm, the largest U.S. pork producers. The video included footage of leaving injured and sick pigs without veterinary care, confining the animals to small spaces, and workers subjecting the animals to physical abuse such as ripping out the testicles of baby piglets and slicing off tails without the use of anesthetics.
"We have issued a suspension of all the Maschhoffs, LLC Oklahoma sow operations while a thorough investigation is completed", Hormel said in a statement after seeing the video. Hormel is sending third-party investigators to assess the farm’s handling of animals.
It’s the second video in less than a year showing animal abuse at a Maschhoffs farm and third video in recent years revealing animal welfare issues at Hormel suppliers. Hormel temporarily suspended sourcing from a Nebraska outfit of Maschhoffs in May 2016 following another Mercy for Animals undercover video release.
In 2015, a video released by another animal rights group, Compassion Over Killing, showed widespread abuses at a Minnesota Hormel facility.
A statement released by the Maschhoffs farm said the operation would be investigating the issue and taking steps to train its employees on “proper production procedures.”
“It's high time that Hormel took meaningful action to end the worst forms of animal abuse at its facilities,” Mercy for Animals president Nathan Runkle said in a statement, “and for individual consumers, the best way to help stop this cruelty is to leave meat off their plates.”
Hormel says it plans to stop using gestation crates to house pregnant sows by the end of 2017. Gestation crates are so small the sows don't have enough room to turn around. Nine states currently have bans on gestation crates (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island).
A recent report found that major food companies are looking at animal welfare commitments as opportunities to further connect with their target consumers who value transparency and ethics as driving factors, particularly among millennial shoppers.
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