MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Following McDonald’s lead, Target Corp. has now refused to use eggs from Sparboe Farms, where undercover cameras recorded unsanitary conditions and employees harming the chickens.

When Mercy for Animals (MFA) went undercover at Sparboe Farms locations in Minnesota, Iowa, and Colorado, it had one goal in mind: expose the conditions inside factory farms and their cages.

“Battery cage production, in our opinion, is the cruelest method of egg production in the United States,” said Daniel Hauff, of MFA.

Video taken inside the farms shows hens barely able to move in cramped quarters and workers mistreating the animals. MFA claims those conditions stem from cage living.

“We encourage them to take a step in the right direction and un-cage these hens,” Hauff said.

On Saturday, MFA sent letters to both companies asking them to only buy cage-free eggs. MFA believes large companies can make change happen.

“Fourteen years ago, McDonald’s flexed its muscle and changed the beef industry by implementing some policies that said, ‘We’re not going to allow suppliers to do the worse abuses’,” Hauff said. “That’s all we’re asking them to do now.”

Sparboe had little to say about McDonald’s and Target’s decision to stop buying their eggs.

“Those eggs will be sold to other customers,” said Beth Sparboe Schnell, president of Sparboe Farms.

In a press conference Sparboe Schnell said their focus has been on the investigation and addressing areas of improvement within the company.

“All of us at Sparboe Farms were shocked and deeply disturbed showing animal mistreatment,” Sparboe Schnell said.

Sparboe has fired four employees. The company plans to retrain workers, expand its food safety and animal welfare staff, and form a sustainability task force.

In addition to the undercover investigation, the FDA also sent a warning letter to Sparboe citing 13 violations.

The company said it’s addressing those issues and that all its eggs are safe to eat.

Comments (25)
  1. zee the reporter says:

    It’s a great start we have a long way to go!

    1. peta sucks says:

      most of the people in America are blind and listen to these idiots (Animal activist) i’m sure the videos that were shown are edited to show the worst possible behavior. Now don’t get me wrong i’m not for animal crulity, but listen to both sides of the story. i can assure you 20/20 didn’t. i will not buy any food products from Mcdonalds or Target!

  2. rml says:

    So glad to hear that more places will no longer get eggs from Sparboe. Well done Target!

  3. irritated says:

    People can be so ignorant. Every company has employees that sometimes behave in a way that shames everyone else…and McDonalds/Target are no exception. Unfortunately for Sparboe Farms, 4 employees did horrible things that are making the rest of the employees look bad and it was broadcasted on national television.

    If you look carefully at both sides of the story and at the sparboe websites as well as the 20/20 news stories, I think you would notice something interesting. Funny how the FDA warning letter was sent to Sparboe the day before ABC aired it’s new story. I don’t believe in coincidences of that nature…this is nothing but a witch hunt.

    I for one will continue to buy Sparboe Farm eggs…but my money will no longer be spent at Target or McDonalds, who seem to forget that one bad egg doesn’t make an entire carton of eggs bad.

    1. Citizen says:

      @irritated. Eating eggs from conditions that produce salmonella bacteria can kill you, but if you want to be a regressive reactionary and get sick just to prove some deluded conservative viewpoint, please feel free! Hope you have good health insurance.

    2. Boy Cott says:

      Spend a coupe of more dollars for range free and send the most powerful message one can. The consumer gets what they want.

      So irritated, the eniter Srarboe operation is awful for the chickens.

      How long have you worked there?

  4. Swamp Rat says:

    Since big grocery retailers buy foodstuffs in such great quantity, why don’t they send quality control inspectors to check their contract vendors? Many up-&-coming small and medium do this to check their suppliers to ensure quality through the retail chain of movement. Many contract vendors encourage these inspection checks.

    It’s unfortunate that Sparboe Farms wasn’t more diligent in their quality control efforts. Unfortunately Sparboe has a lot of catching up to do to repair its image and business practices. Why didn’t the USDA blow the whistle on them sooner to point out the problems? What a business and PR mess for all concerned.

  5. Richard Head says:

    Maybe Beth should have spent a little more time on site to monitor first hand what her multi million dollar business is really like, instead of rolling around naked in a pile of hundies.This didn’t happen over night.These eggs will be sold somewhere else? They’re geared up for mass production. Suddenly there is no outlet. They may have to sell those eggs at a discount, or toss them into the garbage. When you’re raking in the big bucks from a business daddy built from nothing, maybe one looses track of whats really going on in those barns.

  6. ipmutt says:

    I refuse to shop at Target. We are talking about animals whoare raised, fed used for egg production and killed for food after 2 years. We are also talking about fools think chickens need to be treated like humans.

    1. Citizen says:

      @ipmutt. The point of treating animals humanely and decently is that it makes our food more nutritious and healthful. More and more factory farming conditions are producing the outbreaks of food poisoning that we hear about after someone has been very sick or died. Is that what you want? More sick humans, more food poisoning outbreaks all in the name of factory farming and animal abuse? You are very ignorant.

    2. Ace says:

      Nothing should have to suffer needlessly. You’re a mean,mindless, poor excuse for a human being.

      1. Boy Cott says:

        He’s a mutt what can you say?

  7. My goodness says:

    I think something should have been done by Target and McDonalds, but I’m not sure about cutting ties/business with this producer.

    With the money their making, they should have enough Quality Control and Purchasing people to go out and do spot audit’s on these guys. I think a warning would have been a better way to do this, followed by an audit, and the firing of those employees and their supervisors for not reigning those guys in.

    As for the under-cover video, I applaud it. Companies should be open to investigation, unless they have something to hide.

    As for the needless cruelty of animals, it shouldn’t exist, that’s for sure, but in reality we are raising these chickens for our needs. One of the reasons why so many people can eat beef, chicken, or pork is by contolling the feed, water, and movement of these animals. This makes sure that the animals get the sustanance they need to grow and produce.

    1. Citizen says:

      @My goodness. Read my posts above about food poisoning. Humane treatment of our animals produces safer, more healthful food. I buy organic whenever I can, and I can tell the difference in food. Also, because we live in the country, as a family we raise a lot of our own produce and meat. There is an incredible difference in taste and nutrition. So if people continue to support these factory farms and see continual stories of food poisoning and deaths, cancer, and inhumane, filthy practices–it is really all about corporate profit.

      1. you must be fun at parties says:

        Come on now Citizen. You forgot to mention Koch Brothers, George Bush, Scott Walker and Michelle Bachman. They must fit in todays rant somehow.

        1. Citizen says:

          @you must be. As opposed to you who are the “life of the party” and in denial about the quality of the food you eat and what it does to your health. Having one’s head in the sand does eliminate all those nasty views of reality.

      2. Midwesterner says:

        @Citizen. The research I’ve seen shows nutritional values are the same for organic/non-organic. Can you provide citations for your belief that there are variations? Taste is a matter of personal preference, as anyone who’s been in a group sampling apple varieties or wines can confirm. Food poisoning is most often due to bad cooking technique or mis-handling during packaging/distribution rather than failure at the grower/farm. Those of us who don’t live on a family farm and spend our days working at other useful professions need to be able to make our own choices of how we spend our time and resources acquiring food.

        Nutritional study citation link http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080807082954.htm

  8. mel says:

    How is this a conservative issue? I don’t get the correlation.

  9. See BS says:

    Chickens are dumb anyway — whats the big deal?

    Chickens aren’t smart enough to know they have civil rights.

  10. Midwesterner says:

    The quality of Sparboe eggs has been consistently excellent, in my experience as a two-dozen a month buyer for home cooking. That doesn’t happen if the hens were routinely mistreated. I am dismayed by the rush of reactions to the media-storm that seems to demonize commercial production, making it almost impossible to give me the choice to continue buying these eggs. I have no grudge against those who choose to buy free-range products, but resent having choice removed. I wonder who stands to profit from acquiring the assets of the company? How does it benefit animal welfare if the eggs can no longer be sold, making it prudent to kill and sell the hens as meat rather than continuing to feed/care for them as egg-layers?

  11. dyell says:

    This is disgusting, appalling, terrifying and one of the reasons why I don’t eat eggs anymore. Imagine if instead of chickens, it were dogs and cats being treated in this manner.. people would be outraged. These animals deserve the same rights and care we award our house pets. Chickens are beautiful, intelligent beings with their own desires and personalities. More than 95% of the eggs produced in America come from hens crammed in tiny cages, totally denied every natural instinct and action, no room to stretch their wings, many suffering from countless injuries. For more info, check out MeatVideo.com and ChooseVeg.com. Ditch the eggs.

  12. Edward Wu says:

    oh no! less jobs for Sparboe workers, sooooooo thats why so many comments….from work less Sparboe workers…YAYYYY!!! GO TARGET & MCD

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