An animal abuse investigation started last year by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has led to criminal charges against workers at a turkey processor that was once one of Central New York’s best known food businesses.
PETA is now escalating its case against Plainville Farms turkey into a call for grocers like Wegmans to question whether the company’s products justify the use of terms like “humanely raised.”
Last week, Pennsylvania State Police filed 139 felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against 11 former workers at seven Plainville Farms locations in central Pennsylvania. The workers are accused of kicking, stomping, throwing and beating the turkeys, according to a report at Pennlive.com.
All the workers charged in the case had been hired to herd and crate turkeys to be taken to a New Oxford, Pa. plant for slaughter and processing. They no longer work for Plainville.
The Pennsylvania State Police began their investigation in August 2021 after PETA sent them a complaint and a video showing the abuse. The police investigators credited PETA and “outside agencies” for their help in the case and thanked Plainville Farms for its cooperation, according to a news release from Pennsylvania State Police.
Plainville Farms, based in New Oxford, Pa., is the successor to the business that operated for decades on Plainville Road in Lysander. Plainville was founded by the Bitz family in 1835 and operated by them until the company was sold to Hain Celestial Food in 2007. Hain sold the turkey business to Plainville Brands LLC in 2019.
For a while after the original sale to Hain, turkeys were raised by an independent operator at the Lysander farm and processed in Pennsylvania. But turkeys are no longer raised at the Plainville Road location and there is no local connection to the Pennsylvania-based company.
Matt Goodson, chief executive office at Plainville Farms told the Philadelphia Inquirer last week that the company has started “an aggressive internal investigation including outside animal welfare experts.” He told the Inquirer that Plainville has ordered body cameras to be worn by workers while catching turkeys.
“Plainville remains committed to the highest welfare standards for our animals and customers,” Goodson told the Inquirer. “We believe that it’s important for incidents like this to come to light in order to challenge our industry to do better.”
This week, PETA put out a news release that specifically targets stores in the Rochester-based Wegmans chain. PETA contends Wegmans sells Plainville turkeys with labels marked “Earthwise” and which indicate “humanely raised.”
PETA noted that following its investigation the Global Animal Partnership, which certifies animal welfare claims on food, suspended Plainville’s “humane” certification. And Whole Foods stores pulled Plainville turkey products from its shelves.
“Video footage of workers beating turkeys at Plainville suppliers was too horrific for police to ignore, yet Wegmans continues to profit from selling shoppers a ‘humane’ lie,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is calling on Wegmans to take a long hard look at its relationship with Plainville—and everyone else to take personal responsibility by eating vegan.”
Wegmans officials have not responded to syracuse.com’s request for comment.
In its heyday, Lysander’s Plainville Farms covered 1,500 acres, employed about 300 people and raised and processed about 800,000 turkeys a year.
On its web site, the current Plainville Farms highlights its “humane policy for raising turkey on family farms in a stress-free environment.” It also notes that it follows federal guidelines prohibiting the use of added growth hormones or steroids and offers products that are “minimally processed” with “no artificial ingredients.”
Don Cazentre writes for NYup.com, syracuse.com and The Post-Standard. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at NYup.com, on Twitter or Facebook.