For Immediate Release
19 December 2007

Investigators Reveal Cruel Conditions for Turkeys Being Trucked to Sara Lee Slaughter Plants

Animals' Angels and United Poultry Concerns Urge Sara Lee Foods to Cover Turkeys with Tarps in Bitter Temperatures; animal welfare expert Temple Grandin agrees

Contact: Sonja Meadows (410) 848-3153 and Karen Davis (757) 678-787

Two animal advocacy organizations - Animals' Angels and United Poultry Concerns - are calling upon Sara Lee Foods to cover their trucks taking turkeys to slaughter in cold, windy weather.

On January 25, 2007, Animals' Angels investigators followed a densely loaded turkey truck for 4 hours to the Sara Lee Foods slaughter plant in Storm Lake, Iowa. Despite a frigid temperature of 16 Degrees Fahrenheit - including 14 mph winds and 85-90 percent humidity recorded by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration - the truck afforded the birds no protection from the cold and wind. Photos show ice and snow on the cages. According to chief investigator Twyla Francois, "in the video we obtained during transport, you can see the birds' feathers flapping in the wind. They are fully exposed to the cold and wind."

Upon arrival at the slaughter plant, the turkeys sat for another 2 hours in the cold as the truck waited in the dark to enter the plant. Video footage shows a completely open trailer load of turkeys in the cold and dark with exhaust from the slaughter plant blowing through the trailer. To view, click on

Concerned with these findings, Animals' Angels spoke with two Sara Lee employees about the turkeys' exposure to the freezing cold and the handling of frostbitten body parts. The men replied: "We cut those parts off." They said the trucks were not tarped because the birds were all coming from within 15 miles of the plant. "This was hard to believe," said Sonja Meadows, Executive Director of Animals' Angels USA, "since our investigators had just followed one of their trucks for four hours and watched as the trailer waited in line for an additional two hours."

The Sara Lee Corporation, with headquarters in Downers Grove, Illinois, sells its turkey products under brand names that include Hillshire Farms, Jimmy Dean, and Ball Park. It has operations in Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, Minnesota and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as well as in Iowa.

The company presents itself as warmhearted and ethically responsible: "Integrity is more than just being a good person and treating others as you would like to be treated. Integrity is about doing the right thing in every circumstance," according to Sara Lee Executive Vice President, Theo de Kool, on the company's Website at{442447AE-7F3A-4D89-9789-99D6DBFBC0AF}

"We applaud Sara Lee's commitment to doing the right thing in every circumstance," says United Poultry Concerns President Karen Davis. "The circumstance in which these turkeys are being trucked to slaughter in frigid weather has got to be made right. On the Eastern Shore of Virginia, I often see trucks taking chickens to slaughter with boards on both sides of the cages when the temperature drops."

Turkeys and chickens subjected to subfreezing temperatures are susceptible to painful frostbite and severe cold stress - hypothermia - in which body temperatures fall dramatically. Humidity increases the birds' suffering by absorbing their body heat. Suffering and mortality increase as dehydration and exhaustion overwhelm the birds' ability to warm themselves.

Sara Lee claims the company adheres to "strict animal welfare guidelines established by the National Turkey Federation"; however, NTF says merely that "wind protection in winter" is "important to minimize stress." According to animal welfare expert Temple Grandin of Colorado State University: "If it's cold enough for birds to get frostbite, management at Sara Lee needs to provide wind protection on their trailers."

As well as Sara Lee and other privately owned companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture should intervene directly to rectify this serious yet easily resolved animal welfare abuse affecting hundreds of millions of birds each year in the U.S.

In 2006, following a legal petition filed by several animal protection groups including Animals' Angels, the USDA reversed its policy of excluding farmed animals from protection during long-distance truck transport - yet, egregiously, the USDA continues to ignore the nearly 10 billion turkeys, chickens and other birds being trucked to slaughter every year in the United States.

Sara Lee does not have to wait for the USDA to act. Animals' Angels and United Poultry Concerns are calling upon Sara Lee Foods to show compassion to the company's turkeys by covering the birds with tarpaulins, sideboards and/or other protective devices in freezing temperatures. This simple act of kindness would reduce much suffering for these birds.

Contact Sonja Meadows at 410-848-3153 and Karen Davis at 757-678-7875.

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Animals' Angels USA is a nonprofit organization focused on improving conditions for farm animals during transport, at markets, collecting stations and slaughter plants. Address: Animals' Angels USA, PO Box 949, Gambrills, MD 21054. For more information, please visit

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that addresses the treatment of domestic fowl in food production, science, education, entertainment and human companionship situations and promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Address: United Poultry Concerns, PO Box 150, Machipongo, VA 23405. For more information, please visit

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