An animal rights activist group is urging the Watonwan County attorney to file criminal charges against Butterfield Foods Company after more than 9,000 chickens froze to death outside the plant.
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, three trailers full of birds – more than 25,000 total – had arrived at the poultry processing plant from Ohio overnight on February 21.
A manager told the USDA inspector that the trailers were in the shed in the morning when they arrived on-site, but hadn’t been there the previous evening. The inspector noted that the shed is three-sided and is not temperature controlled.
The hens had apparently arrived at midnight, 2 a.m., and 4 a.m. The report says the air temperature in Ohio was around 30 to 40 degrees. But at slaughter time – between 9 a.m. and noon – the temperature at the St. James Airport was recorded between -8 and -17 degrees with wind chills of -21 to -32 degrees.
According to the inspector’s report, many of the hens were frozen to the metal cages in the trailer, and there was a “significant number” of dead hens. The report later noted a total of 9,150 deceased birds.
“Nearly every hen visible from the outside of the trailer on the bottom two rows were frozen solid,” reads the report. “Some of the birds were observed shivering. The hens had almost no feathers.”
In a letter to Watonwan County Attorney Stephen Lindee, PETA urged the county to investigate the matter and file the appropriate criminal charges against Butterfield Foods Company, as well as the workers responsible for leaving the birds outside in the frigid temperatures.
Lindee said he has received the letter, and it will take a couple of weeks to determine whether charges will be filed.
The inspector report noted that regulations require that live poultry should not die from causes other than slaughter.
Southern Minnesota News reached to Butterfield Foods, but did not receive a response.