Omnivore - So much for your Egg McMuffin

20/20 takes viewers inside a factory farm

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McDonald's took another hit this week after 20/20 broadcast a story about its main egg supplier, Sparboe Farms. Video, secretly shot inside the company's huge egg-laying facility, revealed unsanitary conditions and sickening scenes of animal abuse.

20/20 did not broadcast the entire video, provided by Mercy for Animals, because many people would find it unacceptably offensive. If you're not among those and want to see it, you can find it on Mercy for Animals' website.

The story did prompt McDonald's to end its contract with Sparboe; Target has done the same. Good for them. But, even without the overt abuse the video reveals, all factory-farm animals endure nightmarish, tortured lives.

You may be indifferent to the treatment of animals in factory farms or you may regard it as the necessary result of mass food production. Nonetheless, you can't deny that McDonald's advertising, as shown in the first video above, implies that its eggs are from happy farm chickens. And you have to concur that Sparboe, like most factory farms, tries to keep its facilities out of view.

Understand, too, that the phrase "free range" is all but meaningless. Under USDA standards that can mean, as Jonathan Safran Foer notes, that the hen house doors are opened five minutes a day.

Of course, the president of Sparboe says that the overt abuse at her factory farm was an anomaly:

(By the way, one of the first writers to draw attention to the inhumane conditions in the poultry industry was Bill Gupton, one of the associate editors of Creative Loafing back in the '80s, when I was editor of the paper. That story was widely reprinted. Few of us understood its significance at the time.)

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