About 2 million chickens will be slaughtered at Delaware and Maryland farms without ever making it to market — because of staff shortages at the food production company during the coronavirus crisis, according to new reports.
A letter from Allen Harim Foods to growers, first obtained by radio host Dan Gaffney and confirmed by The Delaware News Journal, explained that the company is “no longer able to harvest the amount of birds needed daily or weekly to maintain target weights and ages.”
The company has slowed down setting and hatching eggs, but the impact of that won’t be seen for another six weeks, director of live operations Michele Minton said in the April 9 letter.
So the company decided to begin “depopulating flocks in the field” — an industry term for killing the animals without sending them to market — on April 10, Minton wrote, adding that the producer would contact farmers with information and instructions if their flock is chosen.
Farmers will be fairly compensated, Minton said.
Delaware Poultry Industry Executive Director Holly Porter told the Journal in a statement that “the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. chicken industry is becoming more apparent as the disease continues to spread throughout the United States,” adding that processing plants in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia — an area also known as Delmarva — are being heavily affected by COVID-19-related staff shortages.
Porter confirmed that one Delmarva poultry company is turning to a last resort of “depopulating flocks” amid the crisis.
It’s unclear how the chickens will be killed, but Porter told the Journal that “approved, humane methods — the same methods approved for depopulation in cases of infectious avian disease” would be used.
News of the company’s decision sparked an outcry from PETA.
“In addition to legal and veterinary requirements, common decency demands that you give these chickens—who have suffered day and night in severely crowded, ammonia-ridden sheds and to whom you owe your livelihood—the quickest, most painless, and most humane death possible,” Dan Paden, PETA’s vice president of evidence analysis, said in a letter shared with the media Monday.
Allen Harim Foods did not immediately return a call for comment.