Cal-Maine, the largest producer of chicken eggs in the United States, has been accused of horrific acts of animal cruelty at its egg farm in Lake Wales, Florida.

An investigator working for Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) was hired by Cal-Maine for two months in late 2017. The worker took photos and videos documenting the inhumane living conditions of the birds inside the farm. The “battery” cages where the hens lived were covered in faeces and crawling with cockroaches, as well as countless wounded and dead chickens.

One Cal-Maine employee has reportedly been fired after the undercover video and photos were revealed and has also been charged with animal cruelty by the Polk County sheriff’s office.

In response to the accusations by ARM, Cal-Maine released a statement saying the company is an “industry leader in implementing animal welfare measures.” They claim the video was a set-up.

ARM is calling for customers of Cal-Maine, including Walmart and Publix Supermarkets, to cut ties with the company, and encourages all purchasers of eggs to support free-range and cage-free egg options.

The investigative report outlines countless incidences of cruelty including overcrowded cages, often with nine hens to a single cage, which leads to individuals trampling one another or becoming trapped and strangled in the wires. The report also states that between 20 to 86 dead birds were collected daily from each of the five housing units. “Numerous hens suffered broken limbs from being stuffed, punched and even kicked into battery cages. Many others were pinned down by the slamming of cage doors on their heads or necks which resulted in long agonizing deaths,” according to the ARM. Staff members were seen beating, kicking and stabbing hens to death.

Sadly, most of the egg producing hens in the United States are from battery style farms just like Cal-Maine. Hens that are battery-caged barely have room to stand, let alone perform any natural behaviours such as “nesting, perching and dust bathing, all important for hen welfare,” says the HSUS.

Dr. Michael Appleby, one of the world’s most experienced poultry welfare experts, says “battery cages present inherent animal welfare problems, most notably by their small size and barren conditions. Hens are unable to engage in many of their natural behaviours and endure high levels of stress and frustration. Cage-free egg production, while not perfect, does not entail such inherent animal welfare disadvantages and is a very good step in the right direction for the egg industry.”

In 2016, Wal-Mart announced they would sell only eggs from cage-free hens starting in 2025, a commitment that McDonald’s USA also made in the same year. Following those promises, a further 60 of America’s leading food retailers have promised to move away from cage farms within the next 10 years. However, even so-called “cage free” and “free range” egg farms have been exposed for horrendous abuse.