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Undercover Video Alleges Animal Cruelty at NW Iowa Hatchery

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CEDAR RAPIDS - Shocking pictures from an Iowa hatchery show workers throwing baby chickens, grinding some of them alive.

The animal activist group Mercy for Animals released a video to expose what it calls a common practice at the Hy-Line Hatchery in Spencer, Iowa. The video shows hatchery employees tossing live chicks into metal chutes shortly before some of them drop into a grinder.

Mercy for Animals hired an investigator who worked at Hy-Line International for two weeks in May and June. During that time, he wore a small camera and recorded what he saw.

The video is available at We do want to warn you, some of what you see there might be disturbing.

Mercy for Animals says this is common practice in a hatchery. Workers separate the male chicks from the females, who bounce from one conveyor belt to the next. The males, who won't lay eggs or grow fast enough to be used for meat, drop into an auger before being ground alive.

"Mercy for Animals has done numerous undercover investigations within the egg industry that have shown this is not isolated abuse and runs rampant within the egg industry," said Alicia Boemi, Mercy for Animals.

The hatchery says a national veterinarian association, and the European Union approve the process.

"It just kind of boggles my mind that that's what they would do," said Jim Keitel, livestock farmer.

Jim Keitel buys chicks from a different hatchery to raise on his Clinton County farm. He says wasn't aware of these practices, but wouldn't support a hatchery that abuses chickens.

"If they were doing something I don't agree with, I wouldn't patronize them," said Keitel.

In a statement, obtained by TV9, Hy-Line says, "We have initiated an immediate investigation of the entire situation...if any violation of our animal welfare policies is found, the employee or employees involved will be disciplined per company policy up to and including termination." (Read the full statement above left.)

The hatchery adds that it would have helped if it had been told about the potential violation immediately after it happened.

Mercy for Animals is asking the 50 largest grocery store chains to put a label on the side of the egg cartons. They say they want consumers to know about their investigation.

A spokesman for the United Egg Producers trade group called that proposal "almost a joke."

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