Last week the Humane Society of the United States charged one of Pennsylvania’s largest egg producers, Kreider Farms in Manheim Township, Lancaster County, with extreme animal cruelty. The Society conducted an undercover investigation that showed birds crammed into crowded cages over a six-week period in February and March. They say they found the birds living in filthy conditions amid dead chicken carcasses and a carpet of dead flies so thick workers need headlamps to see.
The Humane Society released a video showing the conditions at the Kreider egg facility. Be forewarned, it’s not easy viewing.
The Kreider expose was quickly followed up by an inspection team from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), Penn State Extension and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Each of the agencies found that conditions at the egg-laying operation met accepted industry standards. George Grieg, secretary of the PDA said that sanitation, rodent control and air quality were all above minimum standards. He also noted that PDA inspections focus on animal health issues, but not animal welfare.
If the Kreider egg-laying facility meets the standards, there is something wrong with the standards.
The Kreider operation is impressive. It consists of the egg laying facilities housing four million birds and a 2,000 cow dairy. I have toured the dairy operation which has installed a state-of-the art sewage system to treat and properly dispose of the tons of cow manure generated every day on the farm keeping thousands of pounds of nutrient pollution out of local waterways and the Susquehanna River. The cows are housed in large barns and look robustly healthy and content. I did not see the chicken barns.
I left the tour impressed with the sophisticated technology that Kreider has invested in and the efficiency of the entire operation. Clearly, when Kreider decides to lead the agricultural industry in adopting practices that protect the environment and enhance animal welfare, it is well able to do so.
Kreider now has the opportunity to take a similar lead in the egg industry. It should adopt state-of-the-art practices at its laying facilities to show that large-scale egg production does not need to come at the expense of the environment or the animals.