Wegmans Cruelty: An Unofficial Blog

This is an unofficial blog and informational archive related to the WEGMANSCRUELTY film and resulting campaign.

Please see that page for more information.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Anyone who has seen Wegmans Cruelty will be familiar with these beetles...

"Hister beetles can be very prolific and don’t become pests by migrating. If we are able to perfect techniques for moving them, we should be able to save yet more money."
–John Gingerich, production manager, Egg Farm Division of Wegmans Food Markets

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Vegan Outreach E - Newsletter

July 27, 2005

Wegmans Cruelty

A film about the fraud of "Animal Care Certified."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Wegmans Cruelty's MySpace.com Profile

Check me out!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Wegmans . . Hens Need Our Help. New Video Shows Why.

United Poultry Concerns

July 22, 2005

Wegmans Hens Are On Film at www.WegmansCruelty.com.

Wegmans Cruelty is a powerful half-hour documentary produced by a small investigative team from the organization Compassionate Consumers. The film features statements from Wegmans representatives, interviews with the investigators, and footage of what life and death is like inside a battery cage facility. Wegmans Food Markets is a 68-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia. Wegmans has been named one of the ‘Top 100 Companies to Work For' by Fortune Magazine. In 2005, Wegmans ranked #1 on the list. For information and to download the film, see www. WegmansCruelty.com
Booman Tribune : Animal Rights Activist Fired From Job Due To Pressure From Large Grocery Firm

by wry twingerFri Jul 15th, 2005 at 10:20:18 AM EDT

A Rochester, NY woman was fired from her accounting firm in apparent retribution for her work in a group called "Compassionate Consumers" which "outed" the areas largest grocery chain, Wegmans, by infiltrating their egg production "factory" and documenting abuses of animals and violations of law. . .

Please show support to whistleblower consumer groups who are trying to keep not only the animals safe and well-treated, but also looking out for consumer safety. Animals that live in unsafe and unsanitary conditions breed diseases that can affect the quality of their by-products.
Please contact Compassionate Consumers to show your support for Jodi, the person fired, and their efforts.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Another way to download Wegmans Cruelty

For another (easier) way to download the full-screen version, see the link below.

The actual DVD has some fantastic bonus features on it -- a moving "slide show" set to acoustic guitar music and a "table loop" of footage with the Wegmans logo and "Animal Care Certified" displayed throughout). It's really worth it to spend the $7 or so, especially since you get lots of other films on the DVD also!
Friends of Rural New York
Did Wegman's have her fired?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Spokesperson for Rochester activist group is fired by Wegman’s auditing firm. Jodi Chemes who is a spokesperson for Compassionate Consumers has been fired from her job at Deloitte and Touche. The activist group filmed atrocities at Wegmans egg factory. Why would Wegmans object to a video documenting their treatment of laying hens?

Take a look at the video and judge for yourself. See: http://www.wegmanscruelty.com/
The Adventures of Adam Weigert:

July 18, 2005

Have you heard about the video by WegmansCruelty.com? It is a local (Rochester) based organization that is trying to bring awareness of the state of our mass live-animal food production faculties. . . .

Please read the rest of Adam's insightful observations on his blog!
nate the tech . blogspot . com :
Wegmans Cruelty Dot Com

this column is fantastic -- please read the entire post at nate's page ! nate is an admirable man!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I must preface even providing the link below with two facts. First, I am someone who identifies myself as a conservative, and am never talked into anything. If I hear something that intrigues me, or even something that is nearly unbelievable to me, I will do my best to investigate it. I then make decisions based on what I learn.Second, I am nearly sick to my stomach as I sit here writing this, having finished watching only the first half of the video about to be discussed. Until watching this video, I was convinced that the topics discussed could not possibly BE as represented by the environmental activists that produced it.

I now understand, having seen with my own eyes, that they are not in fact lying or exaggerating.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Rochester Radio's WHAM Bob Lonsberry supports Wegmans' Cruelty!

Unfortunately, however, he clearly hasn't watched Wegmans Cruelty: his comments reveal extreme ignorance of the issues. See his column written July 20, 2005. Comments might be available here, but Bob removes nearly all comments that are critical of him.

Monday, July 18, 2005

New Film Documents Egg Farm Cruelty
IDA -- In Defense of Animals -- News Alert

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Wegmans disputes claims of chicken mistreatment

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Finger Lakes Times

WOLCOTT — Wegmans is crying foul over a documentary that allegedly shows chickens kept in
poor conditions at their Wolcott egg farm.

The 30-minute video, released July 2 by Rochester-based Compassionate Consumers, depicts row upon row of small cages packed with up to nine hens each. Wegmans maintains that the chickens are not being mistreated and claims that portions of the video were not shot at its facilities.

“We think it’s wrong to mistreat animals, and moral issues aside, it doesn’t make sense to harm the animals we rely upon,” said Jo Natale, Wegmans consumer affairs representative.

She added that the Wegmans facility meets or exceeds federal standards.

The animal cruelty investigation started months ago when Wayne County District Attorney

Richard Healy received an anonymous tip. State police and officials from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets looked into the complaint and cleared Wegmans of any wrongdoing.
“The people who operate the egg farm, and they would know, said they don’t believe all the images come from our egg farm,” Natale said.

She added that animal rights groups often use general stock footage in their documentaries.
The problem isn’t with Wegmans, but with the federal standards, said Adam Durand, an investigator with Compassionate Consumers.

He said the group is opposed to “battery farming,” which he said involves keeping hens in small cages and harvesting eggs via conveyor belt.

Stills from the documentary show feces-smeared chickens with their heads or wings tangled in the wire cages. Dead chickens also are shown in the cages.

“We think that if individuals start to realize what’s happening on farms, they’d request more humane treatment,” he said.

The group doesn’t want to hurt Wegmans, Durand added, “but we want to call them out on this one issue.”

Created last year, Compassionate Consumers is a not-for-profit group that advocates for humane treatment of America’s food animals, he said. The documentary is the first major project the group has undertaken.

Natale said Wegmans is talking with local law enforcement about filing charges against the group for the 2004 break-ins.

“This group broke into our farm and compromised the safety of our hens,” she said.

Members of the group, who appear on-camera in the documentary, could face charges ranging from simple trespass to felony burglary, said State Police Inv. Frank D’Aurizio.

The group “rescued” several chickens during the course of filming, Durand said.

He admitted that the group sneaked into the Wegmans farm, but he said they did it because they were denied a tour of the facility.

Members went into the situation knowing they could face jail time, Durand said, adding that the risk is worth it.

“This is very important to us, we’re willing to put our freedom on the line,” he said.



Friday, July 15, 2005

Accountant Claims WegmansCruelty.com Campaign Caused Wrongful Termination

Rochester, NY (July 15, 2005) – Earlier this week, city resident Jodi Chemes was fired from the Rochester office of Deloitte & Touche because of her involvement in an animal protection campaign against one of Deloitte’s clients. Chemes is a member of Rochester-based Compassionate Consumers, which recently released a 30-minute video depicting cruelty to animals at Wegmans Egg Farm in Wolcott, New York.

Deloitte, operating in nearly 150 countries worldwide, provides accounting services to Wegmans Food Markets. Chemes, a tax accountant, did not work directly on the Wegmans account while employed at Deloitte. According to Chemes, Deloitte claims she violated company policy concerning her personal exchanges with the media. Chemes argues that she did not mention Deloitte in her media communications and therefore did not violate the policy (see included: “External Communications”, sections .P39 and .P40).

Before the video’s release, according to Chemes, Deloitte was well aware that she was an animal advocate and member of a not-for-profit animal welfare charity. On Thursday, July 7, a partner at Deloitte told Chemes that Deloitte and Wegmans were in discussions and that the supermarket chain was upset regarding Chemes’s position at Deloitte. On Monday, July 11, Chemes was fired for speaking out against Wegmans.

“I am disturbed,” says Chemes, “that I was fired for being a member of a group that is devoted to compassion for animals.”

Chemes’s group, Compassionate Consumers recently conducted an investigation and released a film that documents egregious cruelty to animals at Wegmans’ factory egg farm (see news release: Documentary, July 2). Chemes was not part of the investigation, but has spoken out against Wegmans for attacking the activists rather than improving conditions for the animals.

Wegmans Food Markets is headquartered in Rochester and operates 68 stores in four states.

Compassionate Consumers is a Rochester-based organization dedicated to providing the public with information about the treatment of animals on farms and at slaughter. The group is calling for a boycott of battery cage eggs. For more information visit: www.WegmansCruelty.com

Jodi Chemes, 585-267-6336, jodi@compassionateconsumers.org
Adam Durand, 585-944-3345, adam@compassionateconsumers.org
Fired activist blames Wegmans

Woman joined in animal-rights campaign targeting company's egg farm

Corydon Ireland Staff writer

(July 15, 2005) — A Rochester activist on Thursday claimed she was fired from her job as a tax accountant because of her involvement in an animal rights campaign against the Wegmans Egg Farm.

Jodi Chemes of Rochester is spokeswoman for the group Compassionate Consumers, which earlier this month began distributing a DVD documentary that charges the large-scale Wayne County egg operation with animal cruelty.

The 25-year-old was fired Monday and escorted from the downtown Rochester offices of Deloitte & Touche. The Manhattan-based global public accounting company practices in 150 countries.

Deloitte & Touche spokeswoman Deborah Harrington, based in New York City, declined to comment on Chemes. "This is confidential personnel information," she said.

In Rochester, the company does accountancy work for Wegmans Food Markets Inc. — a connection Chemes claims was instrumental in her dismissal."I believe Wegmans pressured them into firing me," she said.

Chemes, a two-year employee of the company, said her work at Deloitte & Touche had no relationship to the Wegmans account.Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale confirmed that Deloitte & Touche is the Wegmans' auditing company.

When news accounts of the animal rights documentary surfaced earlier this month, a representative of Deloitte called Wegmans to say "that one of their employees was involved," she said.

After that, "our only request to Deloitte & Touche was to assure us that the security of our information was guaranteed," said Natale. Deloitte's communications policy, dated October 2004, requires that employees make it clear in letters or other communications with the media or government representatives that "they are speaking or writing as individuals."

Chemes, who has a master's degree in accounting, said she did not violate the policy. In her remarks to the media in early July, Chemes did not refer to her employer, though she did at least once identify herself as a "tax accountant."

Compassionate Consumers, a Rochester-based group, has about 20 members. Only four are active members, including Chemes, she said. Three of those — all but Chemes — illegally entered the Wegmans Egg Farm on Wadsworth Road in Wolcott last summer.

They walked through what they said was a hole in the wall of one of the operation's laying houses and during three nighttime visits took video footage that was used in the documentary, Wegmans Cruelty.

Wegmans, aware of the trespass as early as November last year, had been looking for the perpetrators ever since. The company tightened security at the farm, including the addition of improved fencing.

Chemes said she was never part of what Compassionate Consumers calls its "investigations" and has never visited the farm.Wegmans Egg Farm, with 750,000 laying hens and 200,000 younger hens, is the largest such operation in New York. It has 11 laying houses, where lights, ventilation, heating and cooling are computer controlled.

About 20 percent of the state's eggs come from the facility, where on average each hen produces an egg a day. The farm is owned by Wegmans and has been in operation since 1967.

Earlier this month, Wegmans officials said the company would prosecute the three activists for the break-in. But so far no charges have been filed. "We are continuing to research and discuss the matter with the appropriate authorities," said Natale.

Richard Healy, Wayne County district attorney, said State Police have talked to the three group members who admitted on film to entering the laying house. All three asked the police to contact the attorney they share, who was hired before the documentary went public.

"It's at least trespassing, which is a misdemeanor," said Healy. "But we're running into a proof problem," since the tape is the only evidence of the intrusion. In the weeks since the documentary was released on July 2, about 1,200 copies have been downloaded free from the group's Web site, http://www.wegmanscruelty.com/. Another 200 have been sold, at $7 each.

Healy said he has been in touch with Wegmans and will meet with company officials "in a week or two."This weekend, representatives from Compassionate Consumers will distribute 500 free copies of the documentary in Washington, D.C., at the Taking Action for Animals conference, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States.

This month, other animal rights groups took notice of the Rochester case. The egg farm investigation by Compassionate Consumers brings up conditions that "are revolting to kind people," said Bruce Friedrich, spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a global group based in Norfolk, Va.

Conditions at the Wegmans farm are no different from those at other larg-scale U.S. egg farm operations, activists say. Debeaking birds to prevent injury from aggression and stacking hens in wire-frame "battery cages" are common U.S. industry practices and affect about 280 million laying hens.

These practices are allowed under the guidelines of the "Animal Care Certified" program, endorsed by United Egg Producers, a national industry group and touted by Wegmans on its egg cartons.

"This is cruelty, and it has to stop," said Friedrich, who called information on egg-farming practices "the industry's worst enemy."
Compassionate Action archives
COK's [Compassion Over Killing] eNewsletter, July 6, 2005

Article: Activists Take On Wegmans: Chicken-Cruelty Charge and Video Rebuffed by Execs, Others.
By Corydon Ireland, as printed in the Democrat and Chronicle
July 2, 2005

Available free on the Internet, the film shows hens wandering over heaps of manure and the group’s investigators removing corpses from wire cages and freeing injured hens whose heads, feet or wings were snagged in the wire-grid "battery" cages.

Read the full article.

For more information, visit WegmansCruelty.com.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Grocery Chain Has History of Apathy Toward Animal Abuse
Farm Sanctuary's E-News & Action Alert 07/14/05

Ongoing efforts to convince Wegman's Food Markets, Inc. to stop selling products from cruelly-treated animals are being unheeded. This supermarket chain has stores in NY, PA, NJ, VA and one opening soon in MD. Their blatant justification and promotion of eggs from battery caged hens and crated, tethered veal is not tolerable. This chain has continued to shirk responsibility for a decade. Your help is needed to advocate for the humane treatment of farm animals!
. . .
Battery Caged Egg-Laying Hens:
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. owns stores throughout the northeastern United States and is headquartered in Rochester, NY. In 1995, Farm Sanctuary's President, Gene Bauston, politely appealed to Wegmans food chain to stop housing their egg-producing hens in cramped battery cages. Jo Natale, Consumer Services Manager, stated in a July 19, 1995 letter that "birds are perfectly happy in cages which allow 53 to 60 square inches of space per bird."

One decade later, this same Wegmans spokesperson continued to defend battery cages in a Rochester newspaper, saying "We feel good about our egg farm," and claimed the factory farm they own in Wolcott, NY is clean and humane. Ms. Natale also promised to prosecute an activist group, Compassionate Consumers, for recently videotaping and exposing the horrendous conditions at Wegmans' Wayne County farm. This footage revealed sick and dying birds in crowded cages and some trapped up to their necks in manure pits. Although plotting to press charges for trespassing, ironically, Wegmans denies that all the footage was taken at their egg facility.

Attempting to placate the public, Wegmans claims on their website that it is in the hens' best interest that they cannot be free-range, "These birds are not scratching in a barnyard (that would be tough in snowy weather); they are fed and cared for inside chicken cages in environmentally controlled laying houses." Wegmans promotes their egg farm as being part of the United Egg Producer's 'Animal Care Certified program' which endorses battery cages that "allow enough space so hens can stand comfortably upright". However, the Better Business Bureau referred this case of misleading advertising to the Federal Trade Commission for potential legal action.

What You Can Do
Please contact Wegmans to complain about their cruel egg facility which they falsely promote as humane and ask them to stop selling veal from crated and tethered calves. For more information on these cruel industry practices, visit FactoryFarming.com

Jo Natale
Consumer Affairs
1500 Brooks Avenue
PO Box 30844
Rochester, NY 14603-0844
1-800-WEGMANS ext. 4760
Their online contact form: http://www.wegmans.com/guest/index.asp

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Documentary Reveals Cruelty at Wegmans Egg Farm
The Voice - MFA's e-Newsletter 7.13.05

The Rochester, New York based organization, Compassionate Consumers, has released a 30 minute documentary depicting appalling conditions at Wegmans Egg Farm in Wolcott, NY. The video footage, filmed by Compassionate Consumer investigators, shows the inhumane farming practices used to produce eggs at Wegmans Food Markets.

The documentary shows up to 9 chickens crowded into filing-cabinet sized cages. Chickens were also found with their heads caught in the wire mesh of their cages, submerged in manure pits, and living in cages with feces and rotting corpses. As a result of profound neglect at the farm, some of the hens were unable to reach food and water; and many were found with untreated and infected wounds.

Click here to view the documentary and learn more about Compassionate Consumers' investigation.

Monday, July 11, 2005

"Eggregious Lies from Wegmans,"
an excellent, must-read critical analysis from Animal Writings: Essays and Musings on Animals and Society
(post also available with pictures here).

. . Inherent in Wegmans’ denial is "those sorts of practices, shown in the video, don't happen here." But they do happen there, and they know it. Their attempts to lie about the filth and confinement in their facilities, and to accuse the people who shot the videos of framing Wegmans speaks volumes about their ethics and taints everything else they say about their egg farms.

. . Wegmans claims that the activists were "compromising the safety of our hens."Are they talking about the ones with body parts stuck in the cage bars, the ones whose wings are covered in excrement, the ones that walk over decomposing corpses, or this poor creature who would have died in the manure pits had not CC activists rescued her?

. . You would never do this to your bet dog, cat, or bird. Why would you pay someone else to do it to thousands of them? Not cruel? How stupid does Wegmans think you are?

"We have everything to lose and nothing to gain if the birds get sick or die," said Natale. -- Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. False. Standard egg industry practice is to accept, even force mortality in birds through crowding and starvation because overall the company's bottom line increases. Natale says the company couldn't even produce enough eggs if its hens weren't healthy.False. The hens are genetically bred to produce a high volume of eggs, and even this number is inflated due to the artificial lighting that stimulates the hens to produce more eggs.

. . Wegmans’ ridiculous denial is insulting to birds and people.

Natale worries that the "emotional content" of the video of their egg operation will "overwhelm the science" of the operations. No, the emotion — expressed as sympathy for living creatures — will overwhelm the cruelty. And potentially overwhelm profit.

Wegmans and other factory farm operations hide behind "science." Every cruelty imaginable has been defended in terms of science. It doesn't take a scientist to know that birds with legs and wings like to use them once in a while. It doesn't take a scientist to know that if you kept your pet chicken in a wire crate that had less area than a laptop computer her whole life, you'd be convicted of animal cruelty and that all your neighbors and friends would know without a doubt that you were cruel. Wegmans brags about such treatment.Wegmans uses emotion, not science, to deceive you and perpetuate cruelty.

. . But you must think people are pretty stupid, too, or you wouldn't feed them one obviously disprovable lie after another."After a thorough investigation by the authorities, we were not charged with animal abuse." -- wegmans.com This demonstrates all that is wrong with animal cruelty laws and their "enforcement." Nearly every abuse that is illegal in a home is legal in a farm.

. .

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Monday, July 04, 2005


FOR INFORMATION CONTACT: Adam Durand, Compassionate Consumers, (585)944-3345

Rochester, NY - Today, July 2, 2005, a Rochester based organization, Compassionate Consumers, released a 30 minute documentary depicting appalling conditions at Wegmans Egg Farm in Wolcott, NY. The video footage, filmed by investigators with Compassionate Consumers, shows the inhumane farming practices used to produce eggs at Wegmans Food Markets.

The documentary shows up to 9 chickens crowded into filing-cabinet sized cages. Chickens were also found with their heads caught in the wire mesh of their cages, submerged in manure pits, and living in cages with feces and rotting corpses. As a result of profound neglect at the farm, some of the hens were unable to reach food and water; many were found with untreated and infected wounds. Of the many in need, eleven were rescued by investigators. Nine were relocated to homes where they have the freedom to walk outdoors, roost, and dustbathe. Two were in such critical condition that they died before even making it to the care of a veterinarian.

“This kind of abuse is common in the egg industry, but we expected better from a highly regarded company like Wegmans”, says Adam Durand, an investigator with the group. “From the second I walked in I couldn’t breathe. I could hardly stand to be in there for a few hours, much less a lifetime. These animals have no quality of life and they deserve better. Customers have a right to know that this is what they are supporting when they buy battery cage eggs from Wegmans or any other store.”

Wegmans has owned and operated their egg facility since 1967 and has been part of United Egg Producers’ Animal Care Certified (ACC) program since 2002. The ACC program was recently ruled “misleading” by the Better Business Bureau. Practices such as intensive confinement, starvation to the point of 30% loss of body weight and searing off the beaks of chicks are considered acceptable under ACC standards.

Compassionate Consumers is a Rochester-based organization dedicated to providing the public with information about how animals are raised for their food. The open investigation of Wegmans Egg Farm shows that cruelty is an inevitable part of battery cage egg production. Compassionate Consumers members are calling on Wegmans’ customers to boycott battery cage eggs.


"Activist Group Accuses Wegmans of Animal Cruelty"

13 WHAM, Rochester


Chalonda Roberts (Rochester, NY) 07/03/05 -- A local animal rights activist group says it has proof Wegmans is mistreating animals on its egg farm.

The Compassionate Consumers illegally broke into the facility and video taped the animals. Wegmans denies the allegations.

The grocery store giant believes the group is using its name to get to the people who set the standards for the egg industry. [Note: Wegmans runs its own farm and sets its own standards: they are not ruled by outsiders in the egg industry.]

Members from the Compassionate Consumers describe what they saw in what they claim is Wegmans’ egg farm. "It smelled really bad. There were flies and bugs. Mice were running everywhere," Melanie Ippolito said.

Members of the activist group admit they illegally broke in to the egg farm. They claim they shot video there and now are trying to use it to bring charges of animal cruelty against Wegmans.

Wegmans denies the claims and questions whether the video used in the documentary is from its farm. "We follow very strict guidelines. We met guidelines before we were required to do so, guidelines that are put forth by the Animal Care Certified Program," Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale said.

In fact, Wegmans believes that program is the real target.

"It allows de-beaking. You saw in the video the chicks’ beaks were chopped off. It allows a practice called forced molting, where food and water is withdrawn at the end of the laying cycle to draw more eggs. So the chickens are starved for few days just to get them to produce more eggs," Compassionate Consumer Jodi Chemes said.

"We think it's wrong to mistreat animals. Hens that are mistreated and not cared for don't produce eggs," Natale said.

Wegmans claims its facility is state-of-the-art. There are 700,000 birds on the farm, which produce more than ten million eggs a year.
"We want people to start refusing to buy a product unless they know 100 percent that animals are not being tortured or treated cruelly in the process," Chemes said.

The activists want consumers to be able to make informed decisions about their purchases based on facts.

Wegmans does too.

Both the Wayne County District Attorney and the New York State Police conducted investigations. No charges were brought against Wegmans.
The company plans to press charges against those who raided the farm.

"Activists take on Wegmans : Chicken-cruelty charge and video rebuffed by execs, others."

Corydon Ireland
Staff Writer
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

(Also posted on The Insider).

(July 2, 2005) — A vegetarian activist group broke into the Wegmans Egg Farm in Wayne County three times last summer and is now using video footage from the illegal nighttime visits to level charges of animal cruelty against Rochester-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc.

The company denies the charges, and promised Friday to prosecute the raiders "to the full extent of the law," said spokeswoman Jo Natale.

"We feel good about our egg farm," she said, calling it clean, humane and scientifically operated.

Natale added that company experts suspect that not all the footage is from the Wegmans farm.

The Rochester-based group of 20, called Compassionate Consumers, produced a 30-minute documentary, Wegmans Cruelty.

The film is based on the raids, interviews with the trespassers, comments from animal rights activists and footage of Wegmans executives.

Available free on the Internet, the film shows hens wandering over heaps of manure and the group's investigators removing corpses from wire cages and freeing injured hens whose heads, feet or wings were snagged in the wire-grid "battery" cages.

"What's going on (at the farm) is simply egregious," said Adam Durand, a Rochester packaging designer and self-described animal protectionist who was along on the raids.

"I knew the kind of suffering that was going on inside those sheds," said Durand in a letter received Friday by Wegmans executives.

The Wadsworth Road egg farm, in operation since 1968 and now the largest in New York, keeps 700,000 hens in 11 "layer houses," according to documents from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In each house, ventilation, light, heating and cooling are controlled by computers. Employees visit each one twice a day to assure smooth operations. "We have everything to lose and nothing to gain if the birds get sick or die," said Natale.

In November, Durand and others sent raw video footage from the three raids to Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy. He had the state police visit the facility to investigate. No charges were brought against the company.

"It's unfortunate these things happen," said Healy, acknowledging that as part of a large egg operation, some hens die, get injured or escape from their cages. "But this didn't rise to the level that they are running a bad operation there or are cruel to animals."

Wayne County prosecutes many animal cruelty cases, he said — and more each year, as the public becomes aware of it as a crime.

Investigators from his office and other law enforcement officials have an open invitation to visit the egg farm unannounced, Healy said.

Regular inspections

On hand when the state police visited was Benjamin Lucio-Martinez, a Cornell University veterinarian and chicken researcher who is in charge of the university's poultry diagnostic service.

He visits the Wegmans egg farm every 8 to 11 weeks to inspect chickens being shipped to Canada for slaughter.

"It's among the best in the country," he said of the operation, run for three generations by members of the Wadsworth family. "It's a very clean operation and they follow good practices."

Chickens dying is a normal part of any egg operation, he said, with most of the affected birds succumbing to "cage layer fatigue," from the stresses of producing one egg each a day.

But bird mortality is far higher in free-range operations, said Lucio, where up to 30 percent of a flock a year can die from predator attack and disease.

At the Wegmans facility, dead birds are stacked in 55-gallon drums and placed in cold storage for weekly pickups by rendering firms.

Layer hens live about 18 months before being sold for slaughter. To assure rotating stock, the Wegmans operation keeps 250,000 pullets, or young birds, housed separately.

U.S. standards

Lucio, who is not paid by Wegmans, answered the activists' other charges: Confined hens don't normally defecate on each other, he said, because conveyor belts capture the waste and the cages are staggered or have splatter shields to prevent it. And wire mesh cages stacked three or four high — a U.S. industry standard — are not cruel, said Lucio.

"It looks uncomfortable to us," he said of the footing hens must keep on wire grids. "But chickens do perfectly well with it."

Durand, who has fond memories of shopping at Wegmans as a child, said the "Animal Care Certified" logo the company uses on its egg cartons still allows painful beak trimming, tiny cages and bird-starvation strategies used to manipulate the egg-laying cycle.

"We want to get rid of that disconnect between what people are buying at the store and what is really happening," he said.

Mitch Head, spokesman for the Atlanta-based United Egg Producers, an industry group representing 200 large U.S. operations, said its logo and certification program, started three years ago, sets voluntary industry standards for fresh food and water and the humane transport of hens.

By 2008, producers who use the logo would be required to use battery cages that are 67 square inches, up from the current 48 square inches.

The Wegmans farm has already reached that standard, said Natale.

Cages banned by EU

The European Union will ban battery cages by 2012. In the United States, they are here to stay, said Lucio, but will become more spacious and better designed.

Before the certification program, "there were no regulations" said Head. "People (egg producers) could do whatever they wanted to."

The egg industry is still the only animal agriculture business with animal welfare guidelines, he said.

In 2003, the national advertising division of the Better Business Bureau criticized the Animal Care Certified logo for giving a "misimpression" that confined hens — debeaked and with no room to flap their wings — get the most humane treatment possible.

In answer, the egg industry group started a Web site with a URL that can be imprinted under the logo. "There's only so much you can say on an egg carton," said Head.

One or two large-scale U.S. egg farms are targeted each year by animal rights advocates, with the "charges getting investigated and dropped," he said. "They just use it for publicity purposes."

That misses the point, along with charges that the activists want to convert consumers to a strict vegetarian diet, said group member Jodi Chemes, a Rochester tax accountant who was not along on the raids.

Wegmans is big, nationally famous and well-run, and could use its influence to improve living conditions for the hens that provide consumers with cheap eggs, she said. "They could be a real leader. They're so good at everything else they do."

Tightened security

In March 2004, members of Compassionate Consumers requested a visit to the farm with two letters, but were rebuffed.

They conducted two raids on the farm in May and one in July 2004.

In the month between, Durand called Natale to inquire about conditions in the farm and recorded the conversation. It was later — to Natale's surprise — incorporated into the film, along with public-access footage of Bob and Danny Wegman.

"I cannot tell you enough how upset we are," said Natale, adding that security has been tightened at the fenced facility.

She worried the emotional content of the film would overwhelm the science of the Wayne County operation and its good reputation within the industry.

As for visits to the farm, she said, they are so limited and rare that not even company executives have been there.

Egg producers in general fear that outsiders without the proper protective clothing or hygiene procedures would bring in diseases potent enough to kill the whole flock, especially avian influenza.

The egg farm, which includes about 2,000 acres used to grow feed and to compost animal wastes, was the subject of controversy a decade ago.

A number of neighbors sued Wegmans in 1995, complaining of intense odors, clouds of flies, aerial pesticide spraying and water pollution from manure runoff. The suit was settled privately less than a year later for an undisclosed sum.

Wegmans Egg Farm

Did you know Wegmans has its own Egg Farm? Located in the town of Wolcott, it is the largest egg farm in New York State, and all Wegmans Brand eggs are produced at this location. We have the capacity for 750,000 laying hens. Approximately 60 employees contribute toward processing an average of up to 50,000 dozen eggs per day!

All our chickens are in cages to protect their health and well being. Chickens raised on the floor or free range are subject to certain types of intestinal diseases, because they have continual contact with their manure. If they are not treated with preventive medicines it can cause death. Egg laying chickens in cages are not in contact with manure so these treatments don't have to be given. Should there be some other problem, a Cornell Extension Veterinarian is on call. The bottom line for us, in addition to our chickens' welfare, is food safety. Wegmans participates in the New York State Egg Quality Assurance Program to insure our chickens are healthy and produce a clean, high quality, safe egg.
Wegmans Mary Ellen Burris Columns

Eggzactly So ( 03-20-2005 )

At Wegmans own Egg Farm out in Wolcott, Wayne County, NY, the chicken definitely comes before the egg. We acquire baby chicks first and take care of them from then on. Two years ago, I wrote about our involvement in the Animal Care Certified program, and with peak egg demand now, it’s time for a farm update.

The farm has been supplying eggs to Wegmans customers since 1968. Manager Andy Wadsworth and his team of 72 employees care for the flocks of chickens laying around at this facility. These birds are not scratching in a barnyard (that would be tough in snowy weather); they are fed and cared for inside chicken cages in environmentally controlled laying houses.

It’s typical for Wegmans, and the farm is no different, that we try to stay abreast of new developments, both in technology and humane treatment. Back in 1999, The United Egg Producers commissioned an independent Scientific Advisory Committee (an objective, unpaid ten-person committee of scientists, academicians, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture officials, and humane association members) to study egg industry practices related to animal welfare. Improvements on existing guidelines were suggested…more aggressive standards based on science. After implementing the new guidelines, our farm began its investment in a yearly USDA validation process. Passing this validation allows us to use the Animal Care Certified seal – you’ll find that on every egg carton. More information about the program can be obtained by logging on to Animalcarecertified.com.

The commitment is to protect the hens from disease and injury. We continually upgrade security measures to protect against outside contact, including visitor restrictions and perimeter fencing of the farm. In keeping with new guidelines, more space is given for hens to stand comfortably upright with access to food at all times. There’s lots of fresh, clean water and ventilation. Our new cage design keeps hens clean, and if they ‘fly the coop,’ our folks walk the houses daily to put them back where they belong. Hens are also prevented from injuring other hens with their beaks (some of these birds don’t play nice). And a Cornell Cooperative Extension veterinarian monitors the condition of the flocks routinely.

Plenty to crow about, don’t you think?
Wegmans News Release: 2004 Break-Ins at Wegmans Egg Farm by Animal Rights Activists

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle ran a story on Saturday, July 2, 2005 about 2004 break-ins at the Wegmans Egg Farm. A local group of animal rights activists broke into our farm, compromising the safety of our hens, and allegedly filmed video footage of hens in the laying houses. The group then reported Wegmans to authorities and asked for an investigation of animal abuse.

We fully cooperated with an investigation by the New York State police and the Wayne County District Attorney’s office, which included an assessment by a noted Cornell University veterinarian. It was determined there was no evidence of animal abuse at our farm.

This group has now released a 30-minute documentary to the media. We have serious doubts as to whether all the footage and images in the video come from our farm. In a letter to Wegmans, they profess respect for our company and say they do not wish to slander our name. Their stated objective is to use the Wegmans name to promote their documentary and their concerns about large egg farm production. They are attacking Wegmans as a farm complying with the Animal Care Certified (ACC) program. ACC is a program of science-based animal welfare standards developed for the United Egg Producers by an independent committee of animal science experts. (For more information about the ACC program, go to www.animalcarecertified.com)

Wegmans is proud of the Egg Farm. We voluntarily conform to extremely high standards and are routinely audited by federal and state agencies. We think it’s wrong to mistreat animals. In addition, the hens do not produce eggs unless they are healthy and well-cared for. Once again, after a thorough investigation by the authorities, we were not charged with animal abuse. If you have additional questions, please contact us http://www.wegmans.com/guest/index.asp by email or by phone Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. at 1-800 WEGMANS, ext. 4760.
"Group says Wegmans is cruel to animals"


The Buffalo News

ROCHESTER (AP) - A vegetarian activist group broke into the Wegmans Egg Farm in Wayne County three times last summer, and now it's using video footage from the illegal visits to accuse Rochester-based Wegmans Food Markets of animal cruelty.

The company denied the charges and promised to prosecute the activists, spokeswoman Jo Natale said. "We feel good about our egg farm," she said, calling it clean, humane and scientifically operated.

The Rochester-based group, Compassionate Consumers, produced a 30-minute documentary called "Wegmans Cruelty." The film is based on the raids, interviews with those who broke into the farm, comments from animal-rights activists and footage of Wegmans executives.

Benjamin Lucio-Martinez, a Cornell University veterinarian and chicken researcher, called the Wegmans Egg Farm the best in the country.

"Local activist group says Wegmans mistreats chickens at local farm"


News 10 NBC

Wegmans is denying accusations that it's mistreating hundreds of thousands of chickens to sell eggs. The vegetarian activist group Compassionate Consumers is admitting to breaking in to the Wegmans egg farm in Wayne County. The groups say it wants to show consumers what's going on. The activist group wants to point out it's not just Wegmans egg farms that are abusive to birds, but 98% of wire cage farms across the country.

Considering the fact Wegmans is the only grocer nationwide that actually owns its own eggs on a farm, the activists' think it's a good place to start. The group is accusing Wegmans of cramming up to nine chickens in cages the size of a filing cabinet. The group also says its members had to take dead birds out of the cages and clean feces off living birds.
Wegmans shows a different story and even questions whether all of the other video is really that of the Wegmans egg farm in Wolcott, Wayne County. Wegmans spokesperson Jo Natale says the grocery store is outraged by the accusations. She says the company not only cares about animal welfare, but couldn't even produce enough eggs if its hens weren't healthy.

NEWS 10NBC also found out this has been an ongoing thing for Wegmans with this activist group. In 2004 Wayne County's District Attorney investigated the egg farm and in the end Wegmans received a good bill of health. If you can see more of the video from Compassionate Consumers on their website.
"Activists, Wegmans fight over animal cruelty charges"

WSTM-TV - Syracuse,NY,USA



July 2, 2005

ROCHESTER, N.Y. A vegetarian activist group is using video footage to accuse Rochester-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc. of animal cruelty.Compassionate Consumers produced a 30-minute documentary showing group members removing chicken corpses from wire cages and freeing hens snagged in the cages. The footage was taken after activists broke into the Wegmans Egg Farm in Wayne County three times last summer.

Company spokeswoman Jo Natale denies the cruelty charges, and promised to prosecute the activists "to the full extent of the law." Natale said company experts suspect that not all the footage is from the Wegmans farm.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.