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, April 07, 2006

Wegmans Updates its Egg Farm Webpage, from WegmansCruelty.com

Since “Wegmans Cruelty” was released to the public in July 2005, Wegmans Food Markets has been on the defensive. In the company’s ideal world, its customers would never see how inhumane, overcrowded, and disgusting Wegmans Egg Farm is, but now that the footage is out there the company has had to do a lot of damage control.

The Wegmans Egg Farm Update webpage has always been an interesting mix of generalizations, contradictions, and attacks designed to satisfy Wegmans customers who care about the welfare of animals [see also 'Wegmans' claims: fact & fiction'. But last week the webpage was updated, perhaps in response to the growing attention “Wegmans Cruelty” has received. The first thing that many people will ever learn about Wegmans is that it runs a needlessly cruel egg farm. Wegmans is trying to shake off that image.

Wegmans tells customers that the USDA carries out audits at its egg farm. This misleads concerned shoppers into believing that a federal agency has approved the animal welfare practices at Wegmans Egg Farm. This is, however, simply not the case. There exist no federal standards for the treatment of egg-laying hens. The USDA auditors are simply checking for the minimal standards set by United Egg Producers (UEP), a private organization. UEP's standards require that each egg-laying hen be given less than the space of a sheet of notebook paper in which to spend 18 months. In this small amount of space hens cannot even spread their wings.

Wegmans claims that phasing out battery cages at its egg farm and converting to a cage-free system would mean many of its customers could not afford eggs. But the best market research suggests that consumers would only have to pay just a few cents more each week if Wegmans went cage-free. As the only grocery store company in the country to run its own egg farm Wegmans is in a unique position to improve the lives of 750,000 animals and do it at minimal cost to its customers.

Here's a quote from Wegmans’ webpage that can be carefully analyzed:

There are definitely many inaccurate statements in the film, starting at the very beginning when it is said that ours was “the largest egg farm in the world” when it opened in 1967. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true today.
The line in “Wegmans Cruelty” that Wegmans raises issue with is actually a few minutes into the film, and it goes, "At the time [Wegmans Egg Farm] was built in 1967, it was considered the world's largest egg farm."

Compassionate Consumers spent months researching the history of Wegmans and its egg farm. We found a number of articles about Wegmans' egg facility while looking through the archives at the Wolcott Civic Free Library. Here is one of the sources for our claim that the facility was "considered" the largest in the world:

[see article on WegmansCruelty.com]

Maybe the Vice President of Wegmans was exaggerating at the time, but the article made him sound pretty clear about it.

We understand that Wegmans could forget what its vice president said almost 40 years ago, but when the company makes these claims it needs to realize that most of the information in “Wegmans Cruelty” comes from the mouths of Wegmans spokespeople. Compassionate Consumers makes no absolute or exaggerated claims in its film, because the footage from Wegmans Egg Farm speaks for itself.


Wegmans Egg Farm

We Are Proud of Our Egg Farm
(updated 03-28-2006)

About our farm and our practices…
We’ve been told that our egg farm, run for nearly 30 years by three generations of the Wadsworth family and a team of talented and committed employees, is one of the best in the country. It was started to ensure the freshest and highest quality eggs for our customers. Today, there are 750,000 chickens at the farm, and we are proud of our low mortality rate of less than 8%. Cage-free and free-range hens often have a much higher mortality rate because there is greater exposure to predators, disease, cannibalism, and extreme weather conditions.

In November of 2005, our farm participated in its annual audit of the United Egg Producers (UEP) Certified program, which outlines a set of science-based standards for cage space, air and water quality, nutritious food, and other animal care practices. The USDA conducted this audit, and we received a perfect score - 200 out of 200. (Our score in 2004 was in the high 190's.)

Last year, we began working with Dr. Joy Mench, professor of animal science at the University of California at Davis. Dr. Mench is an expert in animal behavior who co-authored the book "Poultry Behaviour and Welfare." She is also a member of the scientific panel that developed the standards for the UEP program. We asked Dr. Mench to visit our farm and consult with us for two reasons: first, to see if we were indeed doing as good a job with animal husbandry as we believed, and second, to learn if there was anything that could be improved. We are always looking for ways to improve, not just at our farm but across our entire organization.

We also work with Dr. Benjamin Lucio-Martinez, a veterinarian, who visits our farm and monitors the health and well being of our hens as part of Cornell University's Poultry Diagnostic and Extension Service.

A little background...
Three people broke into our farm more than once in 2004. They allegedly filmed hens in one laying house during the break-ins and called on law enforcement authorities to investigate our practices.

In the end, it was determined there was no evidence of animal abuse. The New York State Police and the Wayne County District Attorney’s office jointly conducted the investigation, and Wegmans fully cooperated.

Food safety and food security are non-negotiable for us. We welcome customer debate on any topic, but we cannot tolerate illegal entry into our laying houses because of the obvious risk that a disease, like avian flu, could be tracked in. We have strict bio-security measures in place at our farm. Those who broke in three times not only broke the law, they put our hens at risk and the jobs of the farm’s 80 employees. The break-ins are now a matter in the hands of law enforcement authorities.

There is no way for us to disprove that all of the images in the film (that was since released by those who broke in) were actually taken at our farm, or that none were staged. There are definitely many inaccurate statements in the film, starting at the very beginning when it is said that ours was “the largest egg farm in the world” when it opened in 1967. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true today.

Why choice is important…
Eggs produced by cage-free hens are available at Wegmans. These eggs cost more to produce, so the retail price is much higher than Wegmans eggs. Three nationally-known specialty food stores are often lauded for switching to cage-free eggs only. Wegmans is a full-service supermarket, not a specialty food store. Price is important to our customers, who expect to find eggs at an affordable price and value them as an inexpensive source of high quality protein. Some simply can't afford to pay more. We don’t believe we should force all of our customers to pay more than double the price for a dozen eggs just because a few people think we should.

If you have shopped at our stores and know us well, we hope you trust us to be honest and forthcoming. If you don't know us at all, we realize that's a lot to ask, but we appreciate the chance to tell you about our egg farm.

We are proud of our eggs


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