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Undercover video sheds light on turkey slaughter

Turkey hatchlings and embryos at a Foster Farms plant in Fresno were tossed in plastic bags to suffocate or were ground up alive, according to a new undercover video released Monday by an animal-rights group.

Compassion Over Killing, a vegan advocacy group based in Washington, said its investigator was hired as an employee at the plant and recorded video this spring.

An edited version shows recently hatched turkey poults being placed on conveyors and sent to machinery that removes claws and parts of their beaks.

Some, tossed aside as apparently unfit for consumption, were placed in plastic bags and administered gas; others were apparently sent to a grinding machine. 

“These are standard practices within the turkey industry, but practices that are standard are by no means considered humane,” said Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion over Killing.

Foster Farms, which last week suspended several workers over an undercover video shot at a chicken processing plant, countered that the practices shown on the video were "appropriate and humane" and "consistent with industry standards."

The company enlisted veterinarians and farm animal experts from the Center for Food Integrity, a group supported by the food industry, to review the footage. 

"At this very young age, virtually all injuries and deformities will lead to death, so an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) approved method of euthanasia is performed to stop further pain or long-term suffering," said Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, director of the Center for Food Animal Wellbeing at the University of Arkansas.

Poults that are visibly deformed will be attacked and killed by other birds, the experts noted. Hatched poults are euthanized by carbon dioxide, while embryos are ground up in a macerator.

"This is a very rapid and painless method of euthanizing unhatched poults and is also approved by the AVMA," said Charles Hofacre, director of clinical services at the Poultry Diagnostic & Research Center at the University of Georgia.

The advocacy group said consumers could decide if the practices are justifiable. "We believe the bottom line for consumers is to simply choose to leave animals off their plate," Meier said.

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