Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Esbenshade Farms, Pennsylvania's Third-Largest Egg Producer, Charged With 35 Counts Of Criminal Animal Cruelty

In case you didn’t see it, that’s 35 counts! What in the world is going on in
there?! Terrible.

On January 9, 2006, the owner of Esbenshade Farms, Pennsylvaniaís
third-largest egg producer, and one of the factory farmís managers
were each charged with 35 counts of criminal animal cruelty. The charges
stem from an undercover video taken by an investigator affiliated with
COK. While working at Esbenshade Farms from November 30 to December 9,
2005, the investigator documented appalling conditions for hundreds of
thousands of hens.

Learn more about this investigation and watch the video by visiting

Below is an exclusive article featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lancaster County Egg Farm is Cited for Animal Cruelty

By Harold Brubaker

Printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 10, 2006

The owner and the manager of a Lancaster County egg farm were charged
yesterday with 35 counts of animal cruelty in a case reflecting a
national battle between animal-rights advocates and agribusiness over
the treatment of laying hens.

Video shot by an animal-rights activist employed at Esbenshade Farms in
Mount Joy for 10 days last fall showed hens impaled on loose wires, hens
unable to eat or drink because they were entangled in the wire cages,
and hens left to die in aisles without food and water.

Johnna Seeton, the Pennsylvania humane society police officer who filed
the citations with a district justice in Elizabethtown, described the
conditions for the estimated 600,000 laying hens on the farm as "very,
very bad."

Seeton is authorized to initiate criminal proceedings in her capacity
with the humane society.

Esbenshade Farms, which is among the largest egg producers in
Pennsylvania, with nearly 2.3 million hens, had no comment.

The charges brought yesterday are part of campaigns by animal-advocacy
groups Compassion Over Killing and the Humane Society of the United
States against the egg industry's practice of confining hens in wire
cages without nests or room to stretch their wings.

"Every time consumers buy eggs from caged hens, they are supporting
animal cruelty," said Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over

United Egg Producers, an industry group whose members are responsible
for 90 percent of commercial egg production in the United States, says
the modern cage system is the only way to produce enough eggs to meet
consumer demand while keeping prices low and protecting the birds'
health and welfare.

Eggs from cage-free hens account for just 2 to 5 percent of the market,
with the rest coming from caged birds, according to industry and other

Under pressure from Compassion Over Killing, the Better Business Bureau,
and the Federal Trade Commission, United Egg Producers agreed last fall
to change the name of its animal-husbandry guidelines - along with the
label that goes on certified egg cartons - from "Animal-Care Certified"
to "United Egg Producers Certified."

Gene Gregory, senior vice president of United Egg Producers in
Alpharetta, Ga., said Esbenshade Farms is not a member of his
organization and is not certified.

Even under accepted industry standards, "laying hens are the most
intensively confined animals in all of agribusiness," said Paul Shapiro,
manager of the Humane Society's factory farming campaign.

As more Americans think about where their food comes from and are
willing to pay more for products with special attributes, sales of eggs
from cage-free hens are increasing sharply.

"In cage-free, I'm up 20 percent this year," said Nick Sborlini, dairy
category manager for Acme Markets. The price difference is substantial,
with Acme-brand large eggs selling for $1.39 yesterday in Bala Cynwyd,
compared with $3.39 for cage-free eggs from Eggland's Best, which is
based in King of Prussia.

As the third-largest egg-producing state in the nation behind Iowa and
Ohio, Pennsylvania has a large stake in this shift in the market because
of huge investments in cage systems.

Pennsylvania produced 545 million eggs in November from 24.1 million
hens, or about 7 percent of the U.S. total of 7.54 billion eggs from 347
million layers, according to the United States Department of

Pennsylvania companies, such as Westfield Egg Farm in New Holland and
Giving Nature Foods in Newtown, are tapping into the growing market for
eggs from cage-free hens.

"In the past year, we've had a 30 percent increase," thanks to new
accounts, such as Wegman's, said Ronald Rohrer of Westfield.

Westfield has been in business since 1962, and started raising cage-free
hens more than 15 years ago. The family-owned company now purchases eggs
from 35 small farmers with a total of roughly 300,000 hens in cage-free

Rohrer said a cage-free operation "makes for a healthier bird."

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