(NEW YORK) — The Pennsylvania egg producer featured in a recent ABC News report says undercover video released by the Humane Society and broadcast by ABC News that purports to show animal cruelty and unsanitary conditions at one of its facilities “could have been taped in any chicken house,” and that new inspection reports show the company maintains high standards of cleanliness and animal welfare.
Last week, the Humane Society of the U.S. released video that it said had been shot in February and March by an undercover investigator at a Kreider Farms facility in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The footage, aired by ABC News on World News with Diane Sawyer, showed conditions that the HSUS characterized as “deplorable.” The video shows dead birds left in cages with live birds, live birds trapped in cage wires and a floor thick with flies.
Unsanitary conditions in egg farms, especially a large insect or rodent population, can lead to a higher risk for a salmonella outbreak. ABC News has reported before on conditions at egg farms that can lead to public health concerns.
Kreider Farms, which supplies eggs for ShopRite grocery stores and other retailers in the Northeast, questioned the authenticity of the video, saying in a statement that “HSUS’s video demonstrates no connection to Kreider Farms — it could have been taped in any chicken house.”
After ABC News provided Kreider Farms with pictures and video from the Humane Society showing workers wearing uniforms with a “Kreider Farms” logo, the company reaffirmed that it believed the video showed “no connection to Kreider Farms,” and added: “HSUS’s videos are designed to mislead viewers, and consumers should question how they are shot, edited and assembled. The still images and video footage of Kreider Farms workers, released by HSUS, provide no evidence of HSUS’s allegations.”
Ron Kreider, president and CEO of Kreider Farms, said the company produces a “high quality” and safe product. Kreider, whose family started the company in 1935, says what is depicted in the video is not representative of the company’s mission. “Kreider Farms is one of the most highly respected, progressive egg companies in the U.S.”
In statements to ABC News, Kreider Farms noted that the Manheim facility is one of its older facilities and that most of its egg production takes place in newer, modernized facilities.
A company spokesperson also pointed to three separate inspections conducted last week, after the company learned of the HSUS video and before the ABC News report aired, that indicate “zero evidence of any type of animal abuse or food safety concern.”
Representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture visited the facility on two occasions last week. In a letter to Ron Kreider dated Friday, state Agriculture Secretary George Greig said that a veterinarian for the department determined that sanitation, rodent and insect control were all above minimum standards under an industry program designed to reduce the risk of salmonella.
“All practices, procedures and conditions that our veterinarian observed were consistent with industry best practices pertaining to animal health and food-borne pathogen risk minimization,” wrote Greig. “There was every indication of a high and consistent standard of flock health management in this facility.”
Greig noted, however, that the department “does not have jurisdiction on animal welfare issues.”
Two additional inspections — by the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Center and by Penn State — did not find any animal welfare issues, with one stating the Kreider hens “are being cared for in line with generally approved poultry practices.”
Kreider Farms also says the company has never had an outbreak of salmonella at its facilities. A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration, which inspects egg farms, told ABC News that the Manheim facility was inspected in January and two of eight samples were positive for Salmonella enteritis, but that no enforcement action was taken since the company voluntarily depopulated and cleaned the facility. There was no indication that any eggs were contaminated.
Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection at the Humane Society, says the undercover video his groups investigator shot is “irrefutable” and that the Humane Society released both edited and unedited footage on its website. “[Both] clearly show inhumane conditions for animals at Kreider’s factory farm in Manheim,” Shapiro told ABC News.
Shapiro also said that even if Kreider is in compliance with approved practices, the Humane Society takes issue with those practices. “We’re not alleging criminal wrongdoing,” said Shapiro. “We’re pointing out how cruel and inhumane the conditions for the animals are there. The real problem is the standard practices at the facility that are stipulated as in-use by all parties here.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brian Stelter, CNN Money