The Humane Society of the United States says that Pennsylvania’s largest egg producer has its priorities scrambled.
The website for Lancaster County’s Kreider Farms depicts sunny, idyllic pastures of animals freely grazing. But if you take that image at face value, a new undercover Humane Society report says you’d be terribly mistaken.
“We found hens overcrowded to such a point that they can’t even spread their wings,” said Humane Society spokesman Josh Balk. “These operations were filled with dead flies on the ground to such an extent that when workers walked down the aisle they could hear cracking underneath their boots.
He says these conditions aren’t only cruel, but also pose a threat to food safety.
“When you have hundreds of thousands of birds in one barn, caged — cages on top of each other … suspended over their own feces … rodents running up and down the aisles, this is a recipe for a food safety disaster,” Balk said. Included in the report was an allegation that Kreider’s barns tested positive for salmonella.
Kreider says the report is grossly misleading. In a statement, company president Ron Kreider wrote, “Kreider Farms is considered one of the most progressive egg companies in the United States … Our birds are clean, active and healthy. We believe HSUS’s allegations are unfounded.”
Kreider’s eggs are sold at area ShopRites, as well as through the food-distribution conglomerate U.S. Foods — a business that contracts with many Delaware Valley restaurants and cafeterias. Neither retailer returned calls for comment.
The Humane Society’s findings are based on undercover reporting done by one of their employees who posed as a machine operator at Kreider in February and March.
With the report’s release, Kreider now says it supports federal legislation that would increase the space given to egg laying hens.
The current industry standard is to give about 67 square inches of cage-space per bird — less space than the area of a piece of printer paper.
The proposed legislation would increase that amount to 124 square inches. It would also allow for “environmental enrichments” such as room for hens to perch, scratch, and lay eggs in a nest. The legislation has long been supported by United Egg Producers, a coalition consisting of 88 percent of the nation’s egg producers.
The Humane Society’s report found that Kreider, not part of the UEP, now has cages that give hens 54 to 58 square inches.
The legislation was proposed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives. Proponents hope to bring it forth in the Senate next week.