Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ethical Retailing Memo: Specialty Grocer Trader Joe's Says it Will Stop Selling Eggs From California Farm Where Group Says Video Shows Hen Abuse

Popular specialty grocery chain Trader Joe's said today it will stop selling eggs from a farm in California's San Joaquin Valley where a group named Mercy For Animals says its video showing abuse to egg-laying hens was taken.

Video footage released this week from Chicago-based nonprofit group Mercy For Animals, shows hens in crowded small or battery cages, as well as dead and rotting chicken corpses. The group says the video was taken at an egg farm owned by Turlock, California-based Gemperele Enterprises, also know as Gemperle Farms.

Gemperle Farms has said they don't believe the video is of their farm because the film is to "grainy" to see clearly.

However, Mercy For Animals says not only is the video from a Gemperle egg-laying farm in Merced County, California but that the person who took the video was an undercover operative for the nonprofit group, who got employed by the egg-producer, worked at the farm for sometime, and frequently observed the conditions which are depicted in the video he took.

Alison Mochizuki, a spokesperson for Trader Joe's, told Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) today the grocery chain, which has its corporate headquarters in Southern California, decided to no longer carry eggs produced by Gemperle Farms because "it is of the utmost importance that all of our vendors abide by industry established animal care practices."

Trader Joe's stores in California and the Western USA, like all of its stores in the U.S., sell both conventionally-produced small cage hen eggs and cage-free eggs.

The supplier to Trader Joe's of the Gemperle Farms eggs, produced by hens in the small cages which is the norm in the U.S. egg industry, has been a company called NuCal Foods, Inc., which is the largest egg distributor in the Western U.S.

NuCal distributes eggs from Gemperle Farms along with those produced by dozens of other producers.

NuCal distributes eggs to numerous California and Western USA supermarket chains, including Sacramento-based Raley's (129 stores) and Modesto, California-based Save Mart, Inc. (about 400 stores).

Raley's and Save Mart said they currently plan to continue carrying eggs bought from NuCal in their respective stores but were considering whether or not to make sure none of those eggs come from Gemperle Farms' operations.

We have a feeling they will make that decision soon, as the issue only seems like it will get even hotter, both in the short term because of the video and the publicity it's starting to receive in California, and in the medium to longer term because of the small hen cage ban ballot measure which Californians will vote on in this November's election.

Related Reading On the Issue from NSFM:

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