Animal attorneys are suing Case Farms, one of the largest poultry producers in the nation, on the heels of a 2021 undercover investigation by Animal Outlook that showed chicks being mangled, gassed, and ground up alive. 

The lawsuit, filed by Legal Impact for Chickens in Burke County Court, alleges that Case Farms at Morganton has continued to violate both North Carolina animal welfare laws as well as the poultry industry’s bare minimum welfare standards for birds.

“Case Farms is supposed to protect its chicks from injury, but instead, the company wastefully crushes, maims, and kills countless newborn birds soon after they hatch,” said Legal Impact for Chickens President Alene Anello.  “Consumers and animals alike deserve better from powerful producers like Case Farms.”

Case Farms denied the allegations, saying it is “committed to ensuring the well-being and humane handling of all animals” and has “zero tolerance for the inhumane, cruel, and unethical treatment of birds.”  In a statement to LFT, Case Farms claimed that its animal welfare program covers “all aspects of growing, loading, transporting, and processing birds” and that all employees are trained and supervised to ensure proper implementation.

“Case Farms is aware of the lawsuit filed by Legal Impact for Chickens,” the business told Lady Freethinker. “The company takes the allegations seriously.”

The lawsuit alleges Case Farms — which supplies to KFC, Taco Bell, and Boar’s Head — caused unjustifiable pain and suffering at its Morganton hatchery when workers knowingly operated faulty equipment, including a machine piston that reportedly smashed chicks to death and a metal conveyor belt that trapped and killed the young birds.

Conditions at Morganton allegedly violate both state animal welfare laws as well as the standards of the National Chicken Council — of which Case Farms is a member — that state birds should be “treated with respect throughout their lives and provided a humane death,” according to the lawsuit.

The filing draws on a nearly 3-month undercover investigation, in which a worker employed by nonprofit welfare group Animal Outlook documented malfunctioning equipment reportedly trapping, maiming, dismembering, and pulverizing chicks. The investigator also documented reportedly neglected chicks and live chicks interspersed with dead chicks, as well as delayed killing of suffering chicks, according to the investigation.

The lawsuit also alleges that Case Farms failed to properly train employees, with the investigator reportedly never receiving training related to animal welfare and instead reporting that Case Farms falsified training records prior to an announced inspection.

Chicks at Case Farms’ grow-out facilities also reportedly have been suffering since 2018, with workers reportedly providing moldy food to birds, withholding needed medications, and delivering dead and diseased chicks to Case Farms growers, according to the lawsuit.

Case Farms has taken no action since Animal Outlook’s 2021 exposé, and less than three months later got cited for a worker shackling a live chicken upside down and punching the bird, in what federal inspectors reported was “intentional mistreatment of an animal,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction that would prevent Case Farms from violating the law.

Case Farms has 30 days from May 24 to respond to the lawsuit.