An animal-rights group Wednesday accused Tyson Foods Inc. of cruelty to chickens and urged the nation's largest meat producer to adopt more humane slaughter practices.
Tyson said it will investigate the claims and stated it has a long-standing practice of proper handling and humane slaughter of all animals it processes.
"A recent 10-week undercover investigation of a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in Heflin, Alabama, revealed that workers were ripping conscious chickens' heads off, that slaughter machinery was systematically mutilating chickens, and that thousands of birds were entering the scalding tank completely conscious and being scalded to death," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a statement.
A video of the alleged abuses is available on the PETA Web site TorturedByTyson.com. The Web site claims the undercover agent used a hidden camera at the plant from December 2004 to February 2005.
Tyson said it will conduct an internal review and will fix any procedural deficiencies it finds.
Tyson alleged the undercover PETA agent may have violated company policy by not halting production if there was a problem.
A Tyson veterinarian will conduct the internal review and the company invited Dr. Temple Grandin, an animal welfare expert, to participate. The PETA statement quoted Grandin as criticizing the production practices seen in the video.
Springdale, Arkansas,-based Tyson has beef, pork and poultry operations.
PETA reported similar abuses in July 2004 at a Pilgrim's Pride Corp. plant and that investigation resulted in the company firing 11 workers.
PETA said it has repeatedly urged Tyson to implement new U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved slaughter technology called controlled-atmosphere killing, which would have prevented the suffering that PETA's investigator encountered.
PETA said it sent a letter to Chairman John Tyson on Wednesday asking the company to install controlled-atmosphere killing at its plants.