Stop Scalding Hens Alive


Target: Mike Downs, President of Downs Food Group

Goal: End cruel and ineffective poultry slaughter practices at Butterfield Foods Co.

It’s no secret that the meat industry employs inhumane practices, but a new report by the Humane Society of the United States shows the depraved methods some slaughterhouses use to prepare animals for human consumption. Butterfield Foods Co. is the subject of this new report, in which undercover investigators reported seeing “spent hens”—hens whose calcium levels are so low that they can no longer lay—hung upside down while still alive. These hens were then supposed to pass through electrified water intended to stun them, which was not always effective, and finally have their throats cut by an automatic cutting machine. The throat-cutting machine wasn’t always successful either; many hens passed through unaffected and were then scalded alive to remove their feathers. Scalding will force blood to the hens’ skin and turns the birds bright red. These “red birds” are thrown away as unfit for consumption. Over the course of 30 minutes, the investigators saw an estimated 45 red birds—that’s more than one per minute.

The meat industry needs major reform, but Butterfield Foods Co.—whose slogan is “We Love Old Hens”—is a good place to start. Hens are among the most mistreated animals in the meat industry, as they commonly live in tiny cages with no freedom to move or even spread their wings. Once they’ve spent a year or more laying enough eggs to deplete their calcium levels, they’re moved to slaughterhouses like Butterfield Food Co.’s, where they are subjected to cruel methods of slaughter that may not even effectively kill them. The birds whose throats don’t get cut before going through the scalding tank are then simply tossed aside, unfit for consumption, their death a gross waste.

If people are going to eat meat, the animals that that meat comes from should be treated reasonably during life and their deaths should be as quick and painless as possible. The meat industry rakes in tens of billions of dollars per year—surely some of that money can be put towards making slaughterhouse practices less inhumane and wasteful. Ask the president of Downs Food Group, which owns Butterfield Foods Co., to end these cruel practices.


Dear President Downs,

Animals will be killed as long as people continue to eat meat, but that doesn’t mean that their deaths should be as cruel and drawn out as they are today. A recent investigation by The Humane Society of the United States revealed shocking practices at Butterfield Foods Co., a slaughterhouse owned by Downs Food Group. During this investigation, spent hens missed the electrified water intended to stun them and others were missed by the machine intended to cut their throats. Hens that did not have their throats cut were then scalded, a process that caused the blood from their still-beating hearts to rise to their skin, coloring them a bright red that makes them unfit for consumption. These birds are thrown out, meaning that their lives were lived in cramped, fearful conditions, and ended in pain for no real reason.

These practices need to end. These hens are used their entire lives and then are sent off to be slaughtered, but that slaughter is not the humane practice that consumers want and the USDA demands. Take action to stop this inhumane slaughter at Butterfield Foods Co.—have the equipment inspected to be sure it is working as intended and make the deaths of these hens as painless as you can. The current practice is inhumane and incredibly wasteful—the investigators saw roughly 45 “red birds” disposed of in one 30-minute period. Please use your power as Downs Food Group president to be sure Butterfield Foods Co.’s practices are safe, effective, and within the guidelines of the USDA’s Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ethelred via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Here we go again, Butterfield Food Co. caught again for horrific animal cruelty. Butterfield Food Co must be closed down and the Owners charged harshly for allowing such unimaginable torture and cruelty committed against these defenseless and innocent birds.
    When will the unimaginable torture of helpless animals cease Worldwide?

  2. Cecily Colloby says:

    Who cares about the”waste”? It’s the SUFFERING these poor birds endure that matters. Stop eating meat in the first place and none of this would happen.As long as the stupid human race assumes animals were put here for them to eat, use and abuse this suffering will never stop,and you can be sure the human race will pay dearly in the end….

  3. Stop this barbaric treatment of hens. This is supposed to be a civilized country but it is not if animals are treated in this manner.

  4. Turns my stomach!

  5. Horribelt ! How can people do this !!!

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