Smithfield Foods Inc. is giving consumers a behind-the-scenes look at the world's largest pork producer on the heels of animal abuse allegations at one of its hog farms.
The Smithfield, Va.-based company said Monday that it has released a new series of videos that provide an in-depth look at pork production at the company's Murphy-Brown livestock production subsidiary, based in North Carolina.
The seven videos, which run from three to 10 minutes each and were shot at facilities across the U.S., show how piglets begin their life on a sow farm, moved to a nursery farm, and then to a finishing farm. Some of the commentary for the series was provided by animal handling expert Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.
The videos are available on YouTube and the company website, as well as SchoolTube, a video sharing site for teachers and students.
"Our goal is to take the mystery out of pork production by answering many of the questions that people ask us," Don Butler, director of government relations and public affairs for Murphy-Brown, said in a news release. "These video tours give viewers a close look inside our hog farms and lets people see firsthand how we put our commitment to product quality, food safety and animal care into practice."
In December, the Humane Society of the United States released results from an undercover investigation that showed breeding pigs abused and crammed into small gestation crates at one of its Virginia farms.
Photos and video from the Humane Society's investigation showed about 1,000 large female pigs crammed into metal crates that severely limited their ability to move. The pigs stay in the crates, also called sow stalls, during their four-month pregnancies. Afterward, they are moved for about three weeks to a crate large enough to nurse their piglets before being artificially inseminated and placed back into the gestation crates.
The investigation also found: a lame pig was shot in the forehead with a stun gun and thrown into a trash bin while still alive; employees jabbed pigs with gate rods to get them to move; and pigs with open sores because they couldn't move in the crates.
Paul Shapiro, senior director of the animal welfare organization's factory farming campaign, called Smithfield's new videos an example of "whitewashing."
"We documented footage from a whistleblower ... showing what conditions are like, not when a public relations firm brings their cameras in there for a white-glove tour," Shapiro said.
The company has said it is in the process of converting a number of its sow farms from individual gestation stalls to group housing for pregnant sows, but hasn't said when that transition will be finished. Shapiro on Monday called on Smithfield to provide a timeline for replacing the small gestation crates.
Smithfield also said it regretted the incident and abhorred the actions of individuals who chose to ignore its policies. As part of the company's investigation, it interviewed more than 175 employees and subsequently fired two employees and their supervisor. Smithfield Foods released recommendations of an independent investigative team after the allegations.