SICK!! Undercover footage shows the HORRIFIC conditions inside one of America’s biggest chicken farms

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Disturbing undercover footage from one of America’s biggest chicken farms has shed light on the appalling conditions in which the birds are kept.

Two contract farmers, Mike Weaver and Eric Hedrick from West Virginia, working for poultry behemoth, Pillgrim’s Pride, decided to speak out about the treatment after the company sent a mysterious letter explaining that no one apart from ‘essential people’, should be allowed into their chicken houses.

They referenced confidentiality and biosecurity obligations. If the farmers violated this it would be considered a terminable offence.

Undercover: Equipped with secret cameras two farmers filmed inside the chicken houses - revealing the horrifying reality of chicken farming.

Capture

The farmers and Pilgrim’s Pride work using the method of integrated production, which means the farmers own the farms and chicken houses, while the company provides birds, feed and other inputs so the farmers can raise the birds.

The two men came forward to work with Leah Garces, the director of Compassion in World Farming USA, despite risks of losing their contracts and income to show to the world what exactly the company were hiding. 

Equipped with secret cameras the brave men filmed inside the chicken houses – revealing the horrifying reality of chicken farming.

The gruesome footage shows close-ups of the dying, abandoned birds – some discolored dark red, purple and green and others a bloody mess of rotting flesh and feathers.

‘About a year and a half ago we started getting gangrenous dermatitis, Hedrick explains to Garces – just one of the many problems facing chickens and their farmers.

‘It’s almost like the bird is eaten from the inside out, like its rotten from the inside out… alive,’ he says.

Gangrenous dermatitis is a bacteria that infects soft tissue, causing disturbing skin lesions on chickens like the ones pictured in the video.

Fast-growing chicken breeds often have poor immune function, making them more susceptible to disease. Plus, the crowded, dirty, and warm environments they are kept in are perfect for such bacterial disease to thrive.

‘They’re ugly,’ Hedrick adds, ‘when you pick them up their skin moves underneath your hands.’

‘We’re not allowed to do anything with the birds unless it’s approved by the company,’ Hedrick says.

The video shows him walking among the chickens carrying two buckets, because, he explains to Garces, ‘there are so many dead birds and it will take almost two buckets in get around the house in one trip.’

A second disease ravaging the birds is enteritis, which eats the lining of the intestine.

Brave: Two contract farmers, Mike Weaver and Eric Hedrick from West Virginia, working for poultry behemoth, Pillgrim's Pride, decided to speak out about the treatment after the company sent a mysterious letter explaining that no one apart from 'essential people', should be allowed into their chicken houses

Brave: Two contract farmers, Mike Weaver and Eric Hedrick from West Virginia, working for poultry behemoth, Pillgrim’s Pride, decided to speak out about the treatment after the company sent a mysterious letter explaining that no one apart from ‘essential people’, should be allowed into their chicken houses

Disgusting: 'About a year and a half ago we started getting gangrenous dermatitis, Hedrick explains to Garces - just one of the many problems facing chickens and their farmers. 'It's almost like the bird is eaten from the inside out, like its rotten from the inside out... alive'

Disgusting: ‘About a year and a half ago we started getting gangrenous dermatitis, Hedrick explains to Garces – just one of the many problems facing chickens and their farmers. ‘It’s almost like the bird is eaten from the inside out, like its rotten from the inside out… alive’

Like rubbish: A large pile of of dead chickens next to a bucket also filled with corpses show shows the extent of the mortality in just one house

Like rubbish: A large pile of of dead chickens next to a bucket also filled with corpses show shows the extent of the mortality in just one house

The reddened corpses of these chicken in the midst of the alive birds who cluck around their deceased companions.

A large pile of of dead chickens next to a bucket also filled with corpses show shows the extent of the mortality in just one house.

Helen Hedrick, another farmer, speaks of how when they went in there was ‘bloody poop lying all over the floor’ – a truly revolting sight.

She adds, ‘Consumers do not know anything about their food or they would be disgusted and they wouldn’t eat chicken at all, because I’m not sure I’m going to eat it anymore.’

Another problem for chickens is bad genetics. ‘After the first week you start seeing a lot of chickens with leg sticking out to the side,’ Weaver says.

‘Some of the birds just grow so fast they’ve can’t move too much.’

The disturbing footage shows one chicken with its legs so splayed it can hardly walk.

These chickens’ legs just can’t support their weight of their own unnaturally large breasts – developed especially for meat.

‘They’ll get up, they’ll eat and they’ll sit back down,’ explains Hedrick, ‘They can’t stay up for any length of time.

Deformed: Another problem for chickens is bad genetics. 'After the first week you start seeing a lot of chickens with leg sticking out to the side,' Weaver says

Deformed: Another problem for chickens is bad genetics. ‘After the first week you start seeing a lot of chickens with leg sticking out to the side,’ Weaver says

The disturbing footage shows one chicken with its legs so splayed it can hardly walk. These chickens' legs just can't support their weight of their own unnaturally large breasts - developed especially for meat

The disturbing footage shows one chicken with its legs so splayed it can hardly walk. These chickens’ legs just can’t support their weight of their own unnaturally large breasts – developed especially for meat

‘It’s like an 800lb person, they can’t walk,’ Weaver says.

The genetics of these birds are unnaturally played with to make a baby bird grow to the size of a full-size chicken in the space of just five weeks  – a technique that helps keep the price of chicken low.

‘It’s heart and its frame cannot sustain this bird,’ Hedrick points out, as the footage focuses on a sizeable, yet incredibly unhealthy looking chicken; its flesh too extended to be fully covered by feathers.

This fast growth can have other dire consequences for the birds, such as leg deformities, heart attacks, foodpad dermatitis, hockburns, and more. 

On top of that, the birds are kept in overcrowded houses with no access to natural light or the outdoors, and denied enrichment that encourages natural behavior.

The farmers are shocked that deformities in the birds are happening on such a big scale.

However, bound by contract and living in debt, it’s hard to blame the workers as they have no control over operations.

When explaining why he took the risk to film the houses Hedrick said: ‘They have put us in such a place, we are one step from bankruptcy but we are going down fighting. So many family farmers are in the same place but don’t want to say anything for the fear of retaliation.

‘We don’t want to lose everything we have and have fought to keep because of greedy corporate agriculture. The future is very grim for our children in agriculture. We should never have to worry how we were going to buy groceries for our family.

‘This is why……….If not me then who, if not now then when?’

Gross: Helen Hedrick, another farmer, speaks of how when they went in there was 'bloody poop lying all over the floor' - a truly revolting sight

Gross: Helen Hedrick, another farmer, speaks of how when they went in there was ‘bloody poop lying all over the floor’ – a truly revolting sight

Risking everything: 'We're not allowed to do anything with the birds unless it's approved by the company,' Hedrick (right) says, speaking with Garces and Weaver

Risking everything: ‘We’re not allowed to do anything with the birds unless it’s approved by the company,’ Hedrick (right) says, speaking with Garces and Weaver

If it was up to him, Weaver says, he would change the genetics of the bird and making them more robust, and not just breed them for larger breasts. ‘I would try to breed in natural immunities, and good bones and joints.’

Compassion in World Farming director Garces told MailOnline: ‘When the farmers presented their footage to me, it was more horrific than I was prepared for- birds so diseased that they were rotting alive, their welfare so compromised by their fast growth rate that they could barely walk.

‘The bravery of these farmers that risked everything to bring this story to the public cannot be celebrated enough.

‘These animals are sentient beings, no less so than our dogs or cats. What the industry has done here is nothing short of morally repugnant and needs to be urgently overhauled.’

The team have called for Pilgrim’s Pride to take more responsibility for their birds and encourage the public to get involved in speaking out.

Company spokesman, Cameron Bruett told MailOnline: ‘Pilgrim’s holds a fundamental belief that healthy birds result in high quality chicken products. Each day, thousands of family farmers across the country work hard to produce healthy chickens.

‘Death loss can occur on farms, but this is rarely due to animal cruelty, as there is no economic or ethical incentive to purposely harm animals.

‘We strive to treat our chickens with care and respect and train our contract growers annually on animal welfare. Pilgrim’s technicians and veterinarians work alongside our growers to ensure that production practices promote animal well-being and result in healthy, wholesome products.

‘No incident cited in recent media reports has impacted food safety or human health.

‘Our commitment to the quality and safety of our products and the humane treatment of the animals under our care remains unfettered. We look forward to working with our growers to continue to produce the high quality products consumers have come to expect and enjoy from Pilgrim’s.’

The company is yet to respond to Weaver and Hedrick regarding their future at Pilgrims.

Genetically modified: 'It's heart and its frame cannot sustain this bird,' Hedrick points out, as the footage focuses on a sizeable, yet incredibly unhealthy looking chicken; its flesh too extended to be fully covered by feathers

Genetically modified: ‘It’s heart and its frame cannot sustain this bird,’ Hedrick points out, as the footage focuses on a sizeable, yet incredibly unhealthy looking chicken; its flesh too extended to be fully covered by feathers

Currently the Brazilian-owned, American food company is the second-largest chicken producer in the world and has the capacity to process more than 34 million birds per week for a total of more than over 7 billion pounds of live chicken annually  – a number that cannot be obtained through natural farming techniques alone.

Fortunately there are some independent food label programs that have meaningful animal welfare standards.

Certification program, Global Animal Partnership (GAP), recently committed to slower-growth rate genetics and ensuring more space, enrichment, and natural light for all chickens by 2024.

The eight year phase-in applies to over 600 GAP rated farms and 277 million chickens. This is especially significant because Whole Foods Market requires all fresh and frozen chicken sold in their stores to be GAP certified.

Whole Foods announced its decision to sell chicken with more traditional genetics last month.

No chance: Fast-growing chicken breeds often have poor immune function, making them more susceptible to disease. Plus, the crowded, dirty, and warm environments they are kept in are perfect for such bacterial disease to thrive

No chance: Fast-growing chicken breeds often have poor immune function, making them more susceptible to disease. Plus, the crowded, dirty, and warm environments they are kept in are perfect for such bacterial disease to thrive

Horrible: Gangrenous dermatitis: 'It's almost like the bird is eaten from the inside out, like its rotten from the inside out... alive,' he says. 'They're ugly,' Hedrick adds, 'when you pick them up their skin moves underneath your hands'

Horrible: Gangrenous dermatitis: ‘It’s almost like the bird is eaten from the inside out, like its rotten from the inside out… alive,’ he says. ‘They’re ugly,’ Hedrick adds, ‘when you pick them up their skin moves underneath

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