I caught on hidden camera what Tyson doesn’t want you to know about its chickens
Each September, the poultry industry marks National Chicken Month — an industry-wide effort to keep boost slumping chicken meat sales after grilling season ends. They’ll bombard social media feeds with recipes and cooking tips — but what the industry won’t be talking about is the suffering of the billions of birds on factory farms, before they end up in the oven. So as someone who worked behind the scenes and blew the whistle on Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest poultry producer, I want to share my story.
Going into the job, I knew that Tyson Foods had already been exposed for animal cruelty time again and I watched undercover footage in advance. Yet I still wasn’t fully prepared to witness firsthand the heartbreaking horrors I would document as a Compassion Over Killing investigator.
For over a month in 2017, I worked at Atlantic Farm, a factory farm supplying this poultry titan. The massive warehouse-like poultry sheds are unassuming from the outside. But inside their walls lies a sea of suffering: more than 225,000 birds living in filthy, barren, overcrowded conditions, some unable to walk, others suffering from what look like internal ailments. Some birds were trampling over dead, rotting corpses.
If my camera didn’t capture all of this on film, I may not have believed my own eyes. This profit-driven industry cuts corners and pushes its workers so far that it leads to shocking violence: Birds were slammed, thrown, and run over and crushed to death by forklifts. I even saw baby birds being impaled with a nail at the end of a metal pipe. Some sick or injured birds were tossed into buckets on top of dead birds, and heartlessly left to languish.
What my camera couldn’t capture is the stench of accumulating, ammonia-laden waste. It’s a smell that burns and slaps you in the face every time you walk in the doors, and it’s nearly impossible to wash away.
This whole experience felt like a horror movie. The memories will haunt me for the rest of my life; yet for these animals, this is their daily reality.
In response to my video, viewed by hundreds of millions of people, Tyson cut ties with Atlantic Farm and 10 employees were fired.
However, what Tyson — the nation’s largest chicken producer — doesn’t want you to know is that, while low-paid workers and contractors have been blamed, the suffering for these birds didn’t start with the intentional acts of violence that I documented and exposed.
Behind Tyson’s closed doors, and throughout today’s chicken industry, torture is systemic — and it starts with genetic manipulation. Broiler birds have been turned into “franken-birds.” Bred to grow unnaturally large and fast, these birds reach adult slaughter weight when they’re still just babies, about 45 days old. If we grew at the same rate, we’d weigh 660 pounds at just two months old.
I saw young birds with debilitating leg deformities or severe injuries, and chicks unable to move, trapped by their own already morbidly obese bodies.
A 2016 Compassion Over Killing investigation revealed these same painful effects in birds at Tyson. The video also documented for the first time on hidden camera the cruel use of plastic “nose bones,” stabbed through the nostrils of male breeder birds, to limit the food intake of these rapidly-growing birds to keep them alive long enough to breed.
Tyson promptly ended “nose boning” (quickly followed by Perdue, Wayne Farms, and House of Raeford), but as my new footage shows, Tyson has yet to address the underlying issue and a source of immense suffering: genetic manipulation.
A quarter million people and counting have signed my petition urging Tyson to stop crippling birds with rapid growth and to shift toward cruelty-free plant-based protein. It’s starting to work. Just a day after my petition was launched, Tyson announced it is in fact increasing its investment in plant-based company Beyond Meat, and the company will soon launch a new line of protein-rich plant-based bowls.
If Tyson is sincerely committed to “shap[ing] the future of food,” it must end unnatural rapid growth and continue looking to food’s real future, evidenced by the ever-growing number of consumers swapping chicken for chickpeas, and other plant-based proteins.
Compassion Over Killing