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Kreider Farms disputes abuse claims

By - Last modified: April 13, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Lancaster County's Kreider Farms is pushing back hard against allegations of “extreme animal abuse” at its egg laying facilities.

A state Department of Agriculture inspection was under way this morning, the company said in a statement. It is expected to corroborate findings from three independent, professional inspections on Wednesday that found no evidence of mistreatment, Kreider Farms said.

Kreider’s accuser is the Humane Society of the United States, which on Thursday released photos and videos it says were taken by an undercover investigator working at Kreider Farms’ “egg factory” on Indian Village Road in Penn Township.

The images show chickens jammed into crowded cages, as well as diseased birds and chicken corpses. The investigator found “piles of dead hens on floors of barns,” dead flies carpeting barn floors and ammonia levels so high that workers had to wear masks, the society reported.

“The allegations by HSUS are a gross distortion of Kreider Farms, our employees and the way we care for our birds,” farm President and CEO Ron Kreider said in a statement. “There is no evidence HSUS video footage was taken at Kreider Farms.”

Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture, Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania studied the Kreider facilities this week and found no problems, company spokeswoman Laura Koster said. Calls to those institutions this morning were not immediately returned.

The Department of Agriculture was expected to issue a statement regarding Kreider Farms today, Koster said.

Sunbury-based Weis Markets Inc., which buys Kreider eggs, said it has received detailed independent reports from the farm showing birds are treated humanely.

“We have been in contact with Kreider Farms on this issue and will have Quality Control experts, who work our behalf, follow up with them,” Weis spokesman Dennis Curtin said in an email.

If any of the allegations about Kreider Farms have merit, the company would be well advised to acknowledge and correct them, a midstate public relations professional said.

“We have a saying here: ‘If you’re going to take a bath in public, get clean the first time,’” said Angela Wenner, new business director at York-based Campbell Harrington & Brear Inc.

It’s important for the company’s wholesome image that it demonstrate its commitment to doing the right thing, she said.

In its report on Kreider Farms, the Humane Society called for passage of HR 3798, a federal bill mandating higher animal welfare standards for poultry producers.

The society said Kreider Farms doesn’t support the bill, but the business disputed that.

“We fully support such legislation,” Kreider’s statement said.

The farm said more than 80 percent of its chickens are housed in state-of-the-art cages, and that compared with other operations “we would have the least to do to comply” with such a law.

Kreider Farms, a third-generation family-owned business, is Pennsylvania’s largest egg producer, with about 7 million birds, including 2 million at the location documented in the report, the Humane Society said.