Hormel Foods Corp. said Tuesday that it would halt sow operations with The Maschhoffs LLC, the country’s third-largest pork supplier, pending an investigation into animal cruelty.
 
Undercover video taken at Maschhoffs’ pig farm in Oklahoma showed workers cutting off piglets’ tails and testicles without the use of pain relief. Some piglets were said to have died from the wounds. Other pigs were shown in gestation crates, or a metal enclosure where female pigs are kept during pregnancy.
 
Austin-based Hormel and many other food companies have called for a complete elimination of gestation crates from their supply chain. In 2011, Hormel said it would require its farms to be “100 percent group sow housing” before 2018. That goal was recently updated to the end of February 2017.
 
To ensure Hormel’s new rule will be adhered to, the company said it had dispatched third-party auditors to Maschhoffs’ Oklahoma farm, as well as additional sites under Maschhoffs’ control.
 
In reaction to the video, which came from Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy for Animals, Maschhoffs launched its own investigation.
 
“We view animal care as a continuous-improvement process,” said Bradley Wolter, president of Carlyle, Illinois-based Maschhoffs, in a statement. “Properly caring for our animals is of the utmost importance.”
 
Any issues that are discovered will be “addressed in the quickest manner possible,” Wolter added. Moreover, the supplier said it would re-train its staff at the Oklahoma farm.
 
This is the second time Hormel has suspended its relationship with Maschhoffs in the last year. Last May, undercover video from a pig facility in Nebraska launched a separate investigation into animal cruelty.

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