Adhering to the National Chicken Council's purported Animal Welfare Guidelines, Foster Farms says that it "is absolutely committed to the humane treatment of all animals... keeping the chickens comfortable, clean and well treated is a priority... and ensures excellent health and development." (1)
However, an investigation by East Bay Animal Advocates reveals that Foster Farms chickens are repeatedly denied proper veterinary care and attention. According to Section 597.1.(a) of the California State Penal Code: "Every owner, driver, or keeper of any animal who permits the animal to be in any building, enclosure, lane, street, square, or lot of any city, county, city and county, or judicial district without proper care and attention is guilty of a misdemeanor." Poultry health issues revealed at Foster Farms include:
- Stunted growth (i.e. Broiler Runting Syndrome);
- Severe ammonia burns on breast, legs, feet;
- Heart attacks (i.e. Sudden Death Syndrome);
- Leg abnormalities (i.e. Splay-Leg Disorder & Lameness);
- High newborn chicken mortality;
- Fatal respiratory infections;
- Substantial feather-loss; AND
- Bloody fecal samples
After egg-hatching, Foster Farms' broilers (chickens raised for meat) live in large structures known as growout houses. Approximately, 33,120 birds are raised in each house at Foster Farms locations. Confined to the growout houses, broilers reach slaughter weight at only six to seven weeks-of-age. Housed in confinement, however, birds are forced to stand on accumulated fecal waste and breathe in dust and ammonia fumes.
According to the California Poultry Workgroup, "the progression of poultry management from extensive to more intensive systems has resulted in more increased bird density and concentration of their waste products." (2)
Inactive and docile, broilers are known to rest on litter for extended periods of time. The California Poultry Workgroup explains that "higher moisture levels result in excessive caking of litter which can contribute to breast blisters, disease problems and lameness." (3)
Health Problems Associated With Broiler Production
Courtesy of Alberta Farm Animal Care
Sudden Death Syndrome
Chronic Hunger in Broiler Breeders
Michael Lacy, a researcher at the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, found that "broiler manure is a big problem on large farms. One broiler house (20,000 birds per flock, 6 flocks per year) produces approximately 180 tons of manure per year." (4)
In the United States District Court, Foster Poultry Farms pleaded guilty to violating the federal Clean Water Act. The company discarded 11 million gallons of chicken-manure-polluted water into the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. (5)
Foster Farms claims that their chickens are raised in "optimal conditions to promote growth." (6) However, broilers are selectively bred to grow at an
alarmingly rapid rate, resulting in chronic health problems and death.
"We are reaching the biological limit of growth and it is a mistake to think we can go on and on selecting for increased growth rate without costs to the bird. It also is a mistake to think that we somehow can find an environmental or nutritional solution to these problems," states Dr. Ian Duncan, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph. (7)
Leg disorders and heart disease are common among Foster Farms birds. "One might want to ask ... is it acceptable to breed (or grow) a bird that has to be so carefully managed to stay healthy," states Dr. Joy Mench of the Department of Animal Science at University of California, Davis. (8)
Dr. Frank Robinson, a University of Alberta poultry researcher, affirms,
"Selection for fast growth will run into a ceiling eventually." (9)
According to the National Chicken Council, rapid decapitation and rapid
cervical disarticulation are acceptable methods of on-farm euthanasia
for sick or injured birds. (10)
Reaching slaughter-age, farm workers load birds into crates for transport to the processing plant. The National Chicken Council permits catchers to load five birds per hand at a time. (11)
Birds are transported via large flat-bed trucks for slaughter in overcrowded cages enduring all types of weather conditions.
Dr. Casey Ritz, a US Poultry and Egg Association researcher, explains,
"Broilers that are dead-on-arrival at processing plants are a common occurrence throughout the poultry industry." (12)
Arriving at the slaughterhouse, birds are hung by their legs and their throats are slashed. "Birds are slaughtered by having the jugular vein and carotid artery cut with a sharp hand-held or mechanical knife," the California Poultry Workgroup states. (13)
The Humane Slaughter Act and Animal Welfare Act exempt broilers from
Increase Protection for Chickens
Click here to ask Foster Farms to adopt a Controlled Atmosphere Killing method at its processing plants.
Click here to ask the USDA to protect poultry under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
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