Undercover Footage Reveals The Dark Side Of America’s “Most Trusted” Egg
By Rosie Dawn Griffin
Late last week, Mercy for Animals (MFA) released undercover video footage gathered at nine Washington state egg production facilities between February 29 and May 12, 2016. The video contains disturbing images of dreadful conditions and intentional animal abuse. MFA claims the facilities, all owned by Briarwood Farms, supply eggs to Eggland’s Best, a leading egg distributor and, according to a 2016 BrandSpark study, America’s most trusted source for eggs. The video was picked up by diverse media outlets ranging from VegNews to Fortune.
Eggland’s Best director of quality assurance, Bart Slaugh called the footage “appalling,” but, unlike MFA, insisted it was “inconsistent” with the way Briarwood Farms operates. Slaugh further stated it was “unprofessional and unfair to represent [Eggland’s Best] as the slackers [in moving to cage-free] when in actuality we are the leader.”
One thing everyone ought to agree on—if this is industry leadership, the egg-eating public deserves to see it. The video, like others produced by animal rights activists, is difficult to watch. That’s the point. And that’s precisely why the factory farm lobby wants to prevent such videos from ever being made. Washington state legislators recently attempted to pass two so-called “ag-gag” bills—both of which would have criminalized exactly this type of whistleblowing. Fortunately, neither bill became law, but laws with the same goal are on the books in states including Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Missouri, and Montana, among others.
The kind of whistleblowing undertaken by MFA illuminates practices and conditions consumers deserve to be aware of. The video’s images of hens mired in manure pits and occupying cramped cages with rotting carcasses leave little question as to why caged egg production carries an increased risk of salmonella—a disease that sickens more than a million Americans annually. Clearly, cloaking the food supply in mystery helps no one but big business, while transparency—especially in video form—puts pressure on the industry to alter practices that not only harm animals, but endanger consumers.
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