Seaboard Corporation (SEB) owns the pork producer Seaboard Foods, and, since 2010, Seaboard Corp has had a 50% stake in Butterball, LLC. (1, 2)
Butterball is the largest producer of turkeys in the US; one survey indicated that 41% of consumers planned to buy a Butterball bird during the year. (3) Butterball has processing plants in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Missouri. Seaboard Foods has pork facilities in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa, and Texas. In addition to sales in the US, Seaboard Foods exports pork to Japan, Mexico, Russia, and Korea. Both Seaboard Foods and Butterball have been accused of cruelty to animals…
Seaboard Foods Oklahoma Investigation 2001
An undercover investigation of a Seaboard Foods facility outside of Guymon, OK, led to felony charges for only the second time to date. The investigation documented workers routinely throwing, beating, kicking, and slamming animals against concrete floors. The video footage also showed workers bludgeoning pigs with metal gate rods and hammers. Other pigs were left to die from severe injuries and illness. (4) The manager eventually pled guilty to three counts of felony cruelty to animals. (5)
“Ex-Pig Farm Manager Charged With Cruelty,” Washington Post.
Seaboard Foods Oklahoma Investigation 2011-12
An undercover investigation of a Seaboard Foods facility outside of Goodwell, OK produced video documentation of widespread abuse. Piglets have their legs duct-taped to their bodies, while other pigs are shown suffering from abscesses, torn body parts, and infections. Workers are seen chopping off pigs’ tails and testicles with no painkillers. The workers also hit pigs in the genitals. Many of the gestation crates are full of feces and urine. The video shows sows desperately chewing the metal bars of their gestation crates, often struggling to stand up. Some of the sows are bleeding, others dead. (6)
“Two pig farms in Oklahoma accused of abuse,” Reuters.
Colorado Investigation 2014
An undercover investigator at a Seaboard Foods’ Colorado facility used a hidden camera to record significant cruelty, including:
- Pregnant pigs locked in tiny metal gestation crates unable to walk, turn around, or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives.
- Workers slicing off the tails and ripping out piglets’ testicles, using dull razors and their fingers.
- Mother pigs with open wounds and sores.
- Workers hitting piglets with rock-filled gas cans to force them into overcrowded walkways and transport trucks. (7)
“Animal activists zero in on Yuma County pig farm,” The Denver Post.
Colorado Investigation 2015
Even after the above investigation received widespread coverage, another undercover investigator filmed similar brutality at Seaboard Foods’ Phillips County, Colorado facility. This time, the investigator documented:
- Workers punching and violently hitting pigs in their faces and bodies with boards and heavy cans.
- Pigs crammed in barren concrete pens barely able to move without climbing over other animals.
- Stressed animals repeatedly biting the bars of their pens.
- Workers firing captive bolts into their skulls in full view of other pigs.
“Seaboard Foods fires seven workers in response to animal cruelty findings at its pig farms,” The Kansas City Star.
Butterball North Carolina Investigation 2011
An undercover investigation in Hoke County, NC revealed systematic abuse and an ongoing pattern of cruelty to turkeys at Butterball’s breeding facility there. The video shows workers beating turkeys with metal rods, kicking them, and dragging them by the head. They also pick turkeys up by the wings and throw them. After reviewing the footage, veterinarian Dr. Lee Schrader was quoted as saying, “The practices of this facility are clearly inhumane and result in severe suffering and distress to the birds confined therein.” In addition to the felony and misdemeanor cruelty convictions, the investigation at Butterball uncovered government corruption. Dr. Sarah Jean Mason, the director of Animal Health Programs with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, was arrested and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges after admitting to warning Butterball about the raid by law enforcement and potentially compromising the criminal cruelty investigation. (8)
“Butterball Turkey Raided Amid Animal Abuse Allegations,” ABC News; “Butterball Animal Cruelty: Two More Workers Convicted After Investigation,” Huffington Post.
Butterball North Carolina Investigation 2012
Released a week before Thanksgiving, 2012, video of abuse on a Butterball farm revealed disturbing cruelties. The investigation revealed workers kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, and throwing turkeys onto the ground or on top of other birds; birds suffering from serious untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections, and broken bones; and workers grabbing birds by their wings or necks and violently slamming them into tiny transport crates with no regard for their welfare.
“Butterball again accused of Thanksgiving turkey abuse,” Los Angeles Times.
Butterball North Carolina Investigation 2014
A hidden camera investigation of Butterball’s turkey hatchery in Raeford, NC showed chicks being hung by their feet or head, and regularly mutilated by the machinery. The video also shows chicks being ground up alive in the maceration machine.
“Fresh allegations of turkey abuse at Butterball,” ABC News.
Cages and Antibiotics
More and more grocery chains, restaurant chains, and food suppliers are pledging to source their pork only from suppliers that don’t use gestation crates and farrowing stalls (in addition to only sourcing eggs from cage-free hens). More states are also banning the use of gestation crates. Seaboard Foods not only refuses to pledge to go gestation-crate free, they have a video on their website bragging about keeping gestating sows in individual cages. (9)
For fiscal year 2016, Seaboard had revenue of $5.38 billion, down from $5.59 billion for fiscal year 2015. Net income for 2016 was $312 million, up from $171 million in 2015. (10)