Can you taste the tears in your McRib? The supplier of pork products to McDonald’s, Smithfield Farms, just got hit by a complaint filed with the SEC by animal rights group Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Citing their own shocking undercover investigative video, HSUS allege that Smithfield is making false and misleading claims to shareholders and consumers about how well they treat their pigs and that those claims are in violation of federal securities law.
Central to the complaint are the claims made in the Smithfield-released video called “Taking the Mystery out of Pork Production.” It depicts bucolic farms with open pens where pigs can roam freely. But HSUS’s undercover video showed a different portrait: pigs locked in tight “gestation crates” nearly their whole lives where they can barely move. In the video, some of the pigs bit the bars of their cages so much that their cages were stained with blood from their mouths.
Back in 2007, to wide acclaim, Smithfield promised to phase out within 10 years the use of “gestation crates,” which give the pigs nearly no room to move their whole lives. The SEC complaint (PDF here) says that Smitfield withdrew that promise in 2009, citing financial considerations.
Among other abuses, their investigator alleged that he saw unconscious piglets thrown into the dumpster while still alive.
So if you’ve ever wondered what McRibs were made of, now you know.
In response to the filing, Smithfield told Business Week that they are reviewing the complaint. “We are proud of our unparalleled track record as a sustainable food producer and stand confidently behind our company’s public statements concerning animal care and environmental stewardship,” the company said in a statement.
Reached for comment, McDonald’s released to Business Week a statement that said, “McDonald’s has been a long-time supporter of alternatives to gestation stalls, and we will continue to support the efforts of Smithfield Foods and all of our suppliers to phase them out.”
The graphic video from December 2010 is below.
Humane Society files complaint against Smithfield [BusinessWeek]