PETA Investigator’s Shocking Firsthand Account From Inside a Major Chicken Hatchery
A PETA undercover investigator worked at a hatchery operated by a leading chicken company—one that supplies McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, and other major fast-food chains—and found that the birds whose parts are peddled as nuggets and tenders aren’t the only ones who suffer and die in this industry. But don’t take our word for it—read the investigator’s harrowing firsthand account below.
While working at a massive chicken hatchery, I helped move almost half a million eggs each day from incubation rooms to the dark closets where chicks would hatch before being trucked off to be raised and slaughtered for their flesh. Before taking this job, I knew some of the horrifying figures for chickens raised for meat and eggs—66 billion slaughtered worldwide each year, 9 billion in the U.S. alone. But as I found out, many victims of the chicken meat industry go uncounted, falling out of broken eggs and gasping on the cold concrete floor.
Embryos Crushed, Thrown, Stepped On, and Discarded
One machine that was used for handling eggs malfunctioned every day. Eggs were regularly broken and then just swept onto the floor, so that the exposed embryos wouldn’t get in the way of the machine’s sensors, or they were crushed repeatedly when workers didn’t bother to move them.
I tried to grab loose eggs on the machine before they were crushed. Sometimes, I wasn’t quick enough. I picked up one of these smashed eggs and the embryo came with it—but the head rolled out onto the table. My first thought was, “At least it was a quick death.”
But others didn’t die so quickly. They writhed and jerked, pinned down by the machine, crushed under its wheels, or stepped on by workers. One moment they were curled up, warm and secure, inside an eggshell—the next, they were on the floor, under the heel of a boot, or drowning in a bucket of rotten egg waste and the putrid remains of their siblings.
I could hear some of the discarded embryos still chirping as others were piled on top of them. Those who didn’t die there were later ground up in a macerator. A worker joked that the room looked like a “murder scene” from the blood of discarded embryos.
‘The Easiest Job’ Is the Cruelest
Sometimes chicks hatched early. A worker told me to leave one of these chicks to “dehydrate” and die, rather than simply carrying the tiny bird a short distance across the facility to be with other chicks. Another worker said he would “save” the chick to “become a chicken nugget.”
Most chicks stayed safe within their shells until their expected hatch day—unaware of the events that would follow. Newly hatched chicks were dumped onto conveyor belts. Injured and unwanted chicks were tossed aside to be gassed later with carbon dioxide—a slow and agonizing experience—and then chopped up in the macerator.
Chickens have almost no protection under the law. There’s nothing to stop unwanted chicks from being gassed or ground up. One worker called killing chicks “the easiest job,” but I kept thinking that in their final, painful, terrifying moments, they must see humans as giant monsters, cruel and callous.
The survivors of this hatchery were trucked off to be raised in crowded, filthy warehouses. They’ll remain there until they’re flung into metal boxes, transported to slaughterhouses in all weather extremes, hung upside down by their feet, and bled from the neck—all this just so that we can consume their flesh as “nuggets” and “tenders.”
Chickens: Clever and Courageous
I’ve seen the resourcefulness of chickens and their determination to protect their families. When I worked at a factory farm, beleaguered hens fought when we tried to take their eggs away. Wild chickens have outwitted me and even stolen my food.
But these clever, courageous chickens can’t change their own fate. At whatever point their lives are cut short—before they hatch or when they’re slaughtered, just a few weeks later—their suffering is our responsibility.
Chickens Need Your Help!
I know how to shut the doors to a factory farm, but you and I both know how we can open them and free the chickens forever: Please make the compassionate choice to go vegan today.
The best thing that you can do for chickens is to refuse to eat them. With grocery store freezers bursting at the seams with delicious vegan nuggets, “wings,” strips, and sliders, it’s never been simpler to leave animal-derived foods behind.