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Inhumane Treatment at Turkey Industry’s Largest Hatchery

New HSUS investigation exposes abuse

Days before Thanksgiving, The Humane Society of the United States released findings of its latest undercover investigation—one at a turkey hatchery in Willmar, Minnesota.

For 11 days in October 2010, an HSUS investigator worked inside a Willmar Poultry Company turkey hatchery—the largest turkey hatchery in the country, hatching 30 million poults (young turkeys) every year. It delivers 600,000 of these baby turkeys to customers every week. A Willmar Poultry Company human resources worker told the HSUS investigator that 50 percent of whole turkeys available in typical U.S. grocery stores were hatched at the company.

The investigator documented multiple abuses including:

  • Grinding animals alive. Sick, deformed, and injured birds—as well as healthy animals who are "leftovers" not needed for buyers' orders—are killed by being thrown into grinding machines.
  • Mutilations without pain relief. Workers amputate parts of turkeys’ toes and snoods without any painkillers and jam their heads into a machine that sears parts of their beaks off with lasers—also without painkillers.
  • Abandoned birds left to suffer. Sick and injured poults are tossed into plastic bins or left abandoned and suffering on the floor through the day until they're thrown down a chute into the jaws of a grinding machine.
  • Sick and injured animals. Birds suffer from broken necks, missing eyes, and bleeding wings and legs. Injured and deformed poults are tossed into boxes and left to suffer.

"Our latest investigation exposes a callous disregard for animal welfare in the turkey industry, including practices such as grinding alive sick, injured, and even healthy but unwanted turkeys," stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "It’s unacceptable for workers to leave injured and non-ambulatory animals to suffer on the floor for hours on end, only to then send them to their deaths in a grinder."

Read a full report on the investigation.


  • Each year, approximately 250 million turkeys endure lives filled with frustration and suffering. Bred to grow at an unnaturally rapid rate, many birds cannot even walk normally and suffer from chronic health problems, including heart disease and skeletal disorders. These animals often endure agonizing slaughter.
  • People can reduce animal suffering during the holidays by choosing from an abundance of meat-free foods or switching to products from animals raised in conditions that offer better animal welfare than those endured by factory-farmed turkeys.
  • The HSUS is urging the turkey industry to adopt more humane practices, such as controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK) or stunning (CAS). These systems work by using a mixture of gasses to painlessly kill or render birds unconscious before they are removed from their transport crates.  These methods eliminate the suffering associated with handling and shackling, and ensure that the birds will not be conscious when their throats are cut or when they enter the scalding tank.

Broadcast quality b-roll is available for media download at humanesociety.org/news/multimedia/. Still photos are available by request.


Media contact:
Erin Williams, 301-721-6446, ewilliams@humanesociety.org

Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching "HumaneTV" in the App Store. 


The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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