A few weeks ago, I was talking with Elizabeth Weise, a reporter for USA Today, about food safety issues, specifically the advent of pre-harvest controls and how animal ag would react. Not well, I told her, but “There are two companies that could make this happen in a second, McDonalds and Walmart. If either decides to require it, the industry will turn around on a dime."
The reasoning is simple and the thought process has been shared with me by industry execs several times. What the USDA or the FDA might decree is often seen as a needless and expensive incursion into doing business, an impediment to be resisted at all costs (pun unfortunately intended). What McDonald’s or Walmart will decree is a necessary cost of doing business.
Do you want to sell to the two biggest players in the food business? Follow their rules or go away. Fair enough.
Which brings me to the recent Mercy for Animals (MFA) video of alleged animal cruelty at Sparboe Farms. You can see the ABC News 20/20 coverage which includes the video here. There should be two things that are no surprise here:
(1) An animal activist group got an undercover video of animal cruelty and engineered an embarrassing expose, and
(2) the ‘caught on tape’ company execs expressed shock and disavowed the activity immediately.
Disavowing such practices immediately is a noble deed that does no good, by the way. The damage has already been done; just ask anybody who has already been caught in that nasty little net. Those stellar performers that ran the Decosta egg facilities have now thankfully exited the business
Nathan Runkle, MFA Executive Director, is a man who doesn’t hide his intent. He’s out to get you. When I interviewed him about the notorious E6 video last April (see Jolley: Five Minutes with Nathan Runkle Executive Director of Mercy for Animals) he said, “It’s true that without exception, each time a Mercy for Animals investigator enters a factory farm, hatchery, or slaughterhouse they uncover appalling abuses. E6 is the 15th facility MFA has investigated since our inception.”
Let me ask two questions:
(1) How many more of these high shock value tapes will the animal agriculture industry have to endure before we institute far more serious controls than are in place now, and
(2) how much longer can we not do something before those necessary steps are forced on us by a government entity bowing to public pressure?
A Reinvented Egg McMuffin
A CNN news story about the Sparboe Farms video said “McDonald's and Target dropped an egg supplier this week after an activist group released disturbing video showing what it says shows animal cruelty at three of the company's barns.”