McDonald's and Target have stopped accepting eggs from one of the nation’s largest suppliers of eggs - Sparboe Farms - after video emerged this week of cruel treatment of chickens and chicks by workers at several Sparboe Egg Farms facilities.

Images in the video released by activist group Mercy for Animals show hens packed tightly in cages, rotted hens left in cages, a worker swinging a hen around in the air while tied to what appears to be a small rope, and workers burning off the tips of chick’s beaks. The activities were filmed at various Sparboe facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado.

Target said late Friday it would “discontinue its business relationship” with Sparboe Farms.

“It’s important to note that the most alarming actions on video did not occur at Sparboe’s Vincent, Iowa facility that supplies McDonald’s. Nonetheless, our extremely high standards for our suppliers prohibit this conduct,” said Bob Langer, McDonald’s vice President, Sustainability. McDonalds’ obtained Sparboe eggs through another supplier, Cargill.

Beth Sparboe Schnell, owner and President of Sparboe Farms, said in a statement that the company identified four employees “who were complicit in this disturbing activity and they have been terminated.” She said any others involved would be held accountable.

She said the videos were shot by an activist “hired under false pretenses,” and described the footage as “animal mistreatment,” and “disturbing.”

“Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers. In fact, they are in direct violation of our animal care code of conduct, which all of our employees read, sign and follow each day,” she said.

Sparboe Schnell also said the activist, who had been hired as an employee, did not report the abuse to a supervisor as the company requires if mistreatment takes place.

Mercy for Animals, in a statement released on its website along with the video, wants McDonald’s to end its use of battery cages in the U.S. used to confine hens as they produce eggs.

McDonald’s Langer says the company is participating in a three-year study comparing traditional, cage-free, and enriched laying hen housing systems on a commercial scale.


The Mercy for Animals video footage can be seen below: