Animal welfare group plans FTC complaint vs. Sparboe

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 1, 2011 - 8:13 PM

The group alleges the company violates the animal code of conduct displayed on its website.

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Chickens at Minnesota-based Sparboe Farms

An animal rights group said Thursday that it will file a federal complaint accusing egg producer Sparboe Farms of making false and misleading claims about its animal welfare practices.

Mercy for Animals' undercover video of conditions at Sparboe's henhouses recently caused McDonald's, Target and other major egg buyers to cease doing business with the Litchfield-based company.

Based on the undercover video, the Chicago-based animal rights group will file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, saying Sparboe is making false and misleading statements on its website about its animal rights practices.

Sparboe's website has an "animal care code of conduct, which includes "five essential freedoms," stating among other things that its birds are free of hunger, discomfort, injury and distress.

Mercy for Animals claims the list of freedoms is false based on conditions portrayed in its video. The video showed workers abusing birds, including one employee swinging a chicken on a rope.

It also showed crowded cage conditions -- which Mercy for Animals cites in its federal complaint -- that are common in the egg industry.

Sparboe, the nation's fifth-largest egg producer, didn't return a call for comment.

After the video was released, the company fired four employees it said were complicit in "disturbing activity." It also commissioned a third-party animal welfare audit, which concluded that Sparboe was in compliance with its own animal welfare policies.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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