BRAMPTON, Ontario – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced 60 criminal charges against Maple Lodge Farms, Canada's largest independent chicken processor.

The CFIA alleges that thousands of chickens died from exposure to cold conditions during transportation from farm to slaughterhouse between December 2008 and February 2009, and December 2009 to April 2010. The agency contends the birds were kept too close to truck trailer floors or walls in sub-zero temperatures.

According to the Toronto Star, two of the counts have been heard in a series of six hearings at the Ontario Court of Justice, in Brampton. Court documents reveal allegations that “on or about” Dec. 30 and Dec.31, 2008, 711 chickens, of nearly 10,000 in shipment, were “found dead on arrival” at Maple Lodge’s slaughterhouse. In the other, “on or about” Feb. 23, 2009, 1,181 chickens, of nearly 11,000, were found dead upon unloading at the slaughterhouse.

A spokesperson for Maple Lodge said the company does everything possible to ensure humane transportation of its poultry.

“We have very stringent protocols in place regarding the transportation of animals,” spokesperson Carol Gardin told the newspaper. “At the end of the day, it’s not only moral and ethical considerations regarding the humane handling of the birds, there’s a financial incentive to keep the birds in the best health.”

Maple Lodge, which also has a processing plant in New Brunswick, sells frozen chicken, sliced meats, chicken wieners and chicken bacon, as well as a line of halal products. Court hearings are expected to continue Jan. 9.