The video, from animal rights group Mercy for Animals, captured undercover footage at a Maschhoffs LLC farm in Oklahoma, US, depicting what the advocacy body described as “pure hell”.
Hormel has launched an investigation and said it will not “tolerate any violation” of its strict supplier code of conduct. On 31 January, the meat processor suspended all of Maschhoffs’ Oklahoma sow operations while a “thorough investigation” got underway.
The business sent certified third-party auditors to the Oklahoma farms and other Maschhoffs sites to ensure the animal welfare standards Hormel expects are at all times adhered to by suppliers.
Maschhoffs LLC is cooperating with the investigation and Bradley Wolter, president of Maschhoffs, has launched a full-scale investigation of his own.
“Any animal care deficiencies discovered will be addressed in the quickest manner possible,” he said in a statement on 31 January.
“We view animal care as a continuous-improvement process. We will continue to make investments to further our animal care standards in the future. Properly caring for our animals is of the utmost importance,” Wolter added.
Since the undercover sting, Maschhoffs has committed to retrain all Oklahoma employees on good production practices. It will also force every farm manager to review the video to understand the responsibility that comes with good animal care.
The undercover video also depicted sows in gestation crates – a metal too small for a pig to move in – and Hormel is working to do away from this system.
Much of the US pork industry is moving to free farrowing and gestation crate-free systems, after bowing to mounting pressure to animal rights groups.
By 2018 Hormel hopes company-owned farmed will be gestation crate-free.
Maschhoffs – at a glance
Maschhoffs has been in the hog production business for over 100 years and is America’s largest family-owned pig producer, with farms and sites across nine US states. Each year the company rears enough pigs to provide pork for 16 million homes.