JACKSON, Miss. – A Cal-Maine Foods egg facility in Lake Wales, Florida, is under scrutiny after an animal rights organization released an undercover video on Jan. 16.
Animal Recovery Mission’s (ARM) founder Richard Couto held a news conference saying the video showed battery cages that were in unlivable conditions for the hens.
"What we basically wanted to do was to see what was going on behind closed doors at the Cal-Maine corporation and more in general, battery cage systems in the state of Florida," Couto said to reporters. "We found horrific conditions, some of the dirtiest, filthiest of battery cage farms every investigated in our country."
Cal-Maine responded to accusations calling it a “staged video.”
“The ARM video was taken by a former employee acting as an undercover activist, and he chose to disregard required farm procedures as part of his intent to misrepresent our efforts to provide proper care for our hens,” the company stated. “The employee’s job included identifying and addressing the type of issues shown on the video, and he failed to meet his job requirements. The video depicts another employee deliberately mistreating a hen, and that employee was immediately terminated.”
Cal-Maine said once it was given knowledge of the video they cooperated with the Polk County sheriff’s department and officials from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The Polk County sheriff's office charged Matthew Faulkner, a former Cal-Maine worker, with animal cruelty based on the video recorded by the ARM.
“We believe that this was an isolated incident and does not reflect the ethical standards of animal care expected of all Cal-Maine Foods employees,” the company stated. “Further, we continue to work with our animal welfare team to prevent this from happening in the future. All of Cal-Maine Foods’ facilities are operated in full compliance with existing environmental, health and safety laws and regulations and permits. As a fully-integrated shell egg producer, all shell egg facilities are subject to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and are subject to various state and local health and agricultural agencies.”