Butterball not answering meaty questions about turkey treatment
Last year, an undercover investigation led to five workers at a Butterball turkey factory farm being charged with criminal cruelty to animals. This year, the world’s largest producer of turkey meat is back at it, and just in time for the holidays.
Mercy For Animals recorded the new undercover video in October, documenting:
workers kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their fragile wings and necks, and maliciously throwing turkeys onto the ground or on top of other birds; birds suffering from serious untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections, and broken bones; and workers grabbing birds by their wings or necks and violently slamming them into tiny transport crates with no regard for their welfare.
Local law enforcement is currently investigating the MFA’s legal complaint. Butterball’s public relations manager told ABC News that the company has a “zero tolerance policy for animal abuse,” and that, “Pending the completion of that investigation, Butterball will then make a determination on additional actions including immediate termination for those involved.”
Meanwhile, Butterball is set to sell nearly a third of the 46 million turkeys Americans are planning to eat this Thanksgiving, and their “1-800-BUTTERBALL Turkey Talk-Line” is going gangbusters. Butterball says it employs more than 50 people to handle more than 100,000 November and December phone calls about how best to prep holiday birds. Butterball boasts that its 50 turkey talkers “are ready and excited to tackle any challenge you throw at them.”
But Butterball doesn’t appear to have one person on staff who can take on the challenge of responding to the press about their treatment of those birds. Kiera Butler at Mother Jones tried to inquire with the company about its farming practices.
I got an away message from the first spokeswoman I tried, so I forwarded it along to someone else. Here’s what I got back:
I hope you’re well today. I received your note below from my colleague, Bridget. Unfortunately, resources who are appropriate to answer these questions are limited this week and are unavailable to respond by your deadline.
I wrote back:
Okay, but it does seem like this week of all weeks would be a crucial one for answering these questions! I’d really like to include Butterball’s input if at all possible.
No dice. The spokeswoman responded:
Thanks, Kiera. Due to scheduling, we just won’t be able to make it work. Re: the MFA allegations, I can share with you the company statement if you’d like – let me know.
Okay. Can you at least tell me whether Butterball uses antibiotics, ractopamine, and/or other growth enhancers?
And…crickets. No company statement, no answers on growth-enhancers, nada.
Maybe this has something to do with why Americans are set to consume 12.5 percent less turkey meat today than they did in 2008, according to the USDA. Just, you know, maybe.
Get Grist in your inbox