Since learning of animal mistreatment that has occurred at some of our farms, we have initiated a series of actions aimed at strengthening our animal care procedures and ensuring that our chickens are treated humanely.
Regrettably, these incidents should never have happened in the first place—but they did and we accept that responsibility. We were not as vigilant as we should have been in monitoring our farm employees to make sure that they were following our animal care code of conduct. However, we want to assure you that we are working around the clock to take corrective measures by enhancing our animal care policies and procedures to make our company better.
Before I go into some of the specifics of what we’re doing, I want to take this opportunity to thank our customers and consumers who took the time to share their concerns with us. I’ve read all of your comments, and want you to know I take full responsibility for correcting mistakes that have been made. I helped my father build this business, and I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to support the good work of the vast majority of our employees who strive to do the “right thing” every day.
Immediately upon learning of the undercover video, we launched a comprehensive investigation which identified four employees who were complicit in the disturbing activity. Because we have zero tolerance for animal abuse, the four have been terminated. A production manager also has been relieved of his duties.
Our investigation is ongoing and if any additional employees are involved, they will be held accountable.
Because we are intent on ensuring this never happens again, we have immediately engaged in the following:
1.) We have created a Sustainability Task Force that I will personally lead. The task force will be charged with reviewing and improving all current company practices for production and processing facilities in the areas of food safety, animal care and sustainability. The task force will include a national expert on food safety, one on animal care and a customer/consumer representative We are increasing our resources with additional employees for our animal care, food safety and compliance staffs to ensure that we do everything possible to enhance and strengthen our procedures in these areas.
2.) All bird-handling employees have been re-trained, and will receive additional training over time as we enhance our procedures and continually reinforce our uncompromising expectations for animal care.
3.) We will conduct further audits of ourselves. Last week, Sparboe Farms participated in and passed four third-party animal welfare audits. This week, we have engaged additional experts to conduct assessments of the corrective action plans for our FDA food safety compliance procedures.
4.) We will promote our anonymous employee hotline more widely to help foster a culture that encourages employees to volunteer information if they observe violations of our animal care code of conduct.
Regarding the FDA warning letter from November 16th, we are working closely with the agency to rectify the observations as noted on FDA form #483. The FDA’s inspections last spring were the first to be conducted on Sparboe Farms since the FDA became responsible under the new Egg Safety Rule. We incorrectly assumed that we had sufficiently responded to the observations noted. We now know we were wrong and we had not supplied the detail that they needed. We are currently working 24/7 to provide the FDA with the necessary detail.
We understand that animal care and food safety are paramount to our customers and consumers. We focus on continuous improvement in every area of our business because we want to be an egg farmer that is truly “best in class.” To that end, we are making a concerted effort to be more transparent as our task force conducts its review and issues its recommendations. I invite our customers, consumers and the media to follow our progress.
Finally, I want to assure you that you can continue to have every confidence in the safety and integrity of our products. At Sparboe Farms we are proud of our long and unwavering tradition of offering the highest quality egg products. And we are committed to always doing what’s right and conducting business in a socially responsible manner.
Beth Sparboe Schnell