Tyson Foods Inc. said Friday that it was "outraged" by workers at a broiler operation in Virginia who were captured on an undercover video kicking, throwing and punching chickens and, in one case, standing on a chicken's throat to suffocate it. It will retrain workers where necessary, the company said.
Tyson fired the 10 workers identified in the video, which was first reported and shown by USA Today on Thursday.
"I'm disgusted and outraged by what's shown in this video," Christine Daugherty, Tyson's vice president of sustainable food production, said in a statement. "We do not tolerate animal abuse."
Daugherty also appeared in a 45-second, Tyson-produced video decrying the workers' behavior. The company also condemned on Twitter the behavior seen in the video on Twitter on Thursday.
One Tyson worker is seen on the 3-minute tape stepping on a chicken's head to suffocate it and telling a person with a hidden camera, "You can't let nobody see you do that." A few seconds later, he adds, "You don't know if he's working for the animal rights. Inhumane, standing on his head and let them suffocate. They'll take you to court for that."
Tyson said it will cooperate with Virginia prosecutors if they choose to press charges.
Asked how long the workers had been with Tyson, Worth Sparkman, a spokesman at its headquarters in Springdale, said he couldn't comment on personnel matters.
Tyson said it fired the workers immediately after receiving the video Tuesday from Compassion Over Killing, a Washington, D.C., animal-welfare group, which produced the video.
"The people shown in the video by Compassion Over Killing were all trained in proper animal handling, yet chose to ignore it and failed to alert management about the despicable treatment on these farms," Daugherty said. Firing the workers was "an obvious decision," she said.
Tyson, the nation's largest poultry producer, is a frequent target of animal-welfare groups. Its corporate response to the latest video is more stern, and more reactive, than in past infiltrations. USA Today said Compassion Over Killings' infiltration of the broiler operation in Virginia was at least the fifth in the past 13 months by various animal-welfare groups at Tyson.
"We always react swiftly and aggressively if we learn of any act of animal abuse, but our reaction to this video -- what you're calling visceral -- is due to the number of people involved," Sparkman said.
"This level of violence and abuse is so egregious, it violates Virginia state animal protection laws -- and it violates consumer trust," Erica Meier, the executive director of Compassion Over Killing, said in a statement. "Tyson, the titan of this industry, is literally crushing the life out of birds."
The group said its ultimate goal was for consumers to take up meatless diets.
Tyson also said it will immediately end a practice called "boning" that was depicted in the undercover tape. That involves sliding pieces of plastic into the beaks of male chickens to keep them out of feeders set up for female chickens. The practice had been stopped at all but two Tyson poultry operations before the tape's release, the company said, but now has been stopped at those two as well. The practice was being eliminated because of upgrades in equipment, Sparkman said.
Workers will be retrained as necessary, the company said.
"While we already have animal well-being audit and training programs, we believe we haven't gone far enough and must do more to stop the inexcusable behavior," according to the statement.
The tape's release came just three days after the company reported a record 51 percent increase in earnings per share -- $1.21, up from 80 cents a share a year ago.
Business on 08/13/2016