LITCHFIELD -- The president of the Litchfield-based Sparboe Farms said today she was "deeply saddened" to see "disturbing" video of the mistreatment of egg-producing chickens at their farms.
Beth Sparboe Schnell said the video released today by an organization called Mercy for Animals is "shocking" but "isn't who Sparboe Farms is."
She said four workers identified in the video have been fired.
The video, which shows baby chickens stuffed in plastic bags to die and remnants of decayed chickens pulled from crowded cages, was linked to the fast-food chain McDonalds, which had - until today - contracted with Sparboe to supply eggs.
McDonalds announced today they've ended that business relationship.
In an open letter to the public on a Spareboe Update website, Schnell said the video that was shot in one of the Sparboe barns was "taken by an animal activist who was hired under false pretenses."
She said acts depicted in the footage are "totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers."
She went on to say the video showed actions that are "in direct violation of our animal care code of conduct, which all of our employees read, sign and follow each day."
After learning about the video, she said Sparboe Farms launched a comprehensive internal investigation involving interviews, a review of audits, records and training documents.
Sparboe said the company identified four employees who were "complicit in this disturbing activity and they have been terminated."
The company has pledged to continue the investigation and that others involved will be held accountable for their actions. She said, however an independent auditor from Iowa State University was contacted 'immediately" to conduct a third-party animal welfare audit.
"The auditor confirmed that we are in full compliance with our animal welfare policies," said Sparboe.
The company has been in business for 57 years.