McDonald's Public Relations team has shifted into high gear, dropping its Minnesota-based egg supplier, after an animal rights group released an undercover video of operations at the egg producer's farms in three states.
The video produced by Mercy for Animals, a vegan-advocating activist group, shows what they call animal cruelty at five Sparboe Farms facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado.
See the undercover video:
"The behavior on tape is disturbing and completely unacceptable. McDonald's wants to assure our customers that we demand humane treatment of animals by our suppliers," Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president for sustainability, said in a statement.
And animal cruelty isn't the only concern.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent Sparboe Farms a letter warning them that inspectors found Sparboe in "serious violation" of salmonella-preventing regulations.
The warning said eggs from those facilities "have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health."
The egg-supplier has since responded and issued a statement calling the video "shocking" and saying an internal investigation identified four employees "who were complicit in this disturbing activity" and were fired this month.
"I was deeply saddened to see the story because this isn't who Sparboe Farms is," owner and president Beth Sparboe Schnell said in a statement posted on a company website. "Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers. In fact, they are in direct violation of our animal care code of conduct, which all of our employees read, sign and follow each day."
Sparboe spokesman Lyle Orwig said Friday the company has a "zero tolerance policy" for any animal abuse or cruelty. He said all employees are trained by a veterinarian and work with a crew leader who also has been trained.
Although the "most alarming actions on video" didn't actually happen at the facility that supplies the fast food giant, McDonald's still plans to suspend Sparboe as a supplier.
Mercy for Animals isn't satisfied with McDonald's decision to stop accepting eggs from Sparboe, said Matt Rice, the group's director of operations.
"These are company-wide, policy-level abuses," Rice said. "There's a culture of cruelty and neglect at McDonald and its suppliers."
"McDonald's is simply sidestepping the issue now. It's time McDonald's requires all of its suppliers to un-cage hens and finally give these animals the basic freedom to spread their wings, to walk and engage in other natural behaviors," he said, noting that McDonald's has already switched to cage-free eggs in Europe.
This isn't the first time that Mercy for Animal has conducted an undercover operation.
They have taken similar action in Ohio (which led The Ohio Department of Agriculture to urge farmers to press charges against them for burglary and trespassing), Iowa and Texas. Apparently, they don't act exactly within the law.
In fact, their activism has been so prolific that several states have introduced pieces of legislation seeking to outlaw their tactics.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
(h/t Business Insider)