How will a video of pork abuse impact Hormel?
Animal rights group Mercy for Animals released undercover footage of pig abuse at an Oklahoma Hormel pork plant Tuesday morning, according to a news release. In the video, piglets can be seen "having their testicles ripped out and their sensitive tails cut off without any pain relief," according to the release.
The video also captured footage of sickly and injured mother pigs crammed in dirty gestation crates that didn't allow them to sit or lie down, piglets trampling one another in overcrowded spaces and pigs biting the bars of their pens, a "sign of serious mental collapse."
The Maschhoffs and Hormel Foods have ordered an investigation into the incidents caught on video and promised to quickly address any issues. According to an article in Meat + Poultry, the companies are retraining all employees in the state on correct production policies, making sure everyone understands it, and driving home their zero-tolerance policy.
It's hardly news that animal farmers seek to get the most bang for their buck, regardless of the stress animals undergo along the way. It should also come as no surprise that contemporary consumers would take issue with some of the methods and systems that are employed to produce their meat products — especially when they seem deplorable.
Pig and cow castration is performed to make the animal's meat more palatable, as the animals are less stressed and produce meat with superior texture. But there may be more humane methods to perform it if meat producers insist on continuing business as usual.
One thing is certain: Hormel is going to have to work hard to regain consumer trust. Videos like these often go viral, and if consumers see their bacon and ham sources mutilated on camera, they're likely to switch brands, or in some cases, avoid pork altogether.
However, if any company can weather this sort of bad PR, it's Hormel. The company has had a good year, and investors and industry experts have been confident in its aptitude for growth and solid financial standing. In its most recent earnings report, the company reported record sales of $2.6 billion for the quarter, a 9% increase year over year, with volume also rising 9%. Hormel has also been at the forefront of the popular non-GMO and natural movement, announcing in July that its Applegate Farms brand was removing GMOs from its entire supply chain and seeking third-party certification.
Consumers are no longer solely concerned with the taste and health benefits of the products they buy. Ethical treatment of animals and supply chain transparency are also top of mind, something meat producers should be aware of and take seriously.