The operator of the Spencer, Iowa chick hatchery that made news last week says it has corrected improper handling practices, according to a statement from the parent company. 

The hatchery was depicted in a graphic undercover video released last week by the animal-rights group Mercy for Animals, showing workers killing, injuring and generally mishandling young poultry. According to the statement, the company hired an independent firm to inspect the Spencer facility after the video was released. 

Following is the company's full statement:

"At Hy-Line International and Hy-Line North America we place the highest priority on the well-being and safety of our birds and the care and safety of our employees. Well-defined animal welfare policies and procedures that are designed to meet or exceed local and international standards are in place at all of our facilities.

We continue to investigate animal welfare allegations at our Spencer, Iowa hatchery depicted in a video distributed last week by an animal rights organization. We take very seriously any reports of variations from our established policy. That is why we took immediate steps to bring in independent, third-party experts to conduct comprehensive audits to verify that appropriate animal welfare practices are in place and followed as supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Federation of Animal Science Societies, Agriculture and Agri-FoodCanada, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the European Union (EU).  

Among others, the audits were conducted by a noted university professor with extensive research on animal welfare practices associated with poultry.

This auditor stated: “In conclusion I am impressed with the commitment to animal care by Hy-Line and its employees here in Iowa. The equipment, practices and handling of chicks at the Hy-Line hatchery in Spencer, Iowa are consistent with customary industry husbandry practices and exceed animal welfare standards in a number of areas.”

However, these independent audits confirm that some of the practices at our Spencer, Iowa facility depicted in the undercover video did not reflect the standard operating procedures of our company and are in direct violation of our animal welfare policy. One scene in the video depicted a bypass of the instantaneous euthanasia process and was a direct and clear violation of both the authorized animal handling procedures and our welfare policies.  

The independent audits also identified specific recommendations for Hy-Line to modify our equipment so that it cannot be altered or changed. Those corrective actions to equipment and procedures were implemented immediately. 

In addition Hy-Line will continue to reinforce its animal welfare policy with all employees to impress upon them zero tolerance for behavior that does not conform to established animal well-being procedures. Ongoing training and investment will be mandatory to ensure that all employees continue to consistently operate our processes to the highest standards."

A visit to the Hy-Line International’s Web site reveals that the company is a long-standing leader in poultry genetics. The site includes an entire section on animal welfare, outlining the company’s policies and expectations. It also offers contact information for employees or others to confidentially report animal-welfare violations in company facilities. This is a large, modern and progressive company that, by all appearances, is committed to doing things right, just like the vast majority of cattle, swine and poultry operations of any size. The challenge for Hy-Line, and for all livestock operations, is assuring that the commitment to animal welfare and best management practices carries through to every employee, every day. Continuous training, evaluation and zero-tolerance for animal abuse are critical for the survival of individual businesses and consumer perceptions of the entire industry.

We’ve said it before and probably will say it again — a digital camcorder that fits in the palm of your hand costs less than $100. Everyone in the livestock business these days needs to act as if someone is video-taping their every move. — John Maday, Droversmanaging editor