Feds Find Birds Scalded to Death at House of Raeford; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
April 12, 2021

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Duplin County, N.C.

Armed with damning U.S. Department of Agriculture reports indicating that two House of Raeford slaughterhouses in Duplin County were cited for seven violations of federal law in less than two months—including after numerous chickens were scalded to death and/or drowned—PETA sent a letter this morning to G. Norman Acker III, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, asking him to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal charges against the company and the workers responsible.

The reports—which PETA just obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request—note that a federal agent saw a live chicken scalded to death and/or drowned after the worker responsible for cutting birds’ throats was “dozing.” Other incidents include ones in which a worker was “struggling to keep up with removing” birds who had been scalded to death and/or drowned, a live chicken was covered with dead birds in a bin, and federal staff had to intervene on four days to prevent conscious chickens from being plunged into a tank of scalding water.

“These reports show that live birds were zooming down House of Raeford’s high-speed slaughter lines straight into scalding water,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation and urging anyone disturbed by these chickens’ agonizing deaths to help prevent animals from being sent to slaughterhouses in the first place by going vegan.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Acker follows.

April 12, 2021

The Honorable G. Norman Acker III

Acting U.S. Attorney

Eastern District of North Carolina

Dear Mr. Acker:

I’m writing to request that your office investigate and file applicable criminal charges against House of Raeford Farms and the workers responsible for at least seven violations of the Poultry Products Inspection Act between January 30 and March 24, 2020, at its chicken slaughterhouses located at 253 Butterball Rd. and 3333 U.S. Hwy. 117 S. in Duplin County. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents in the attached reports, which PETA just obtained via a public records request.

At the Butterball Road location, a federal agent saw a live chicken—whose eyes were open and who was apparently hanging upside down by his shackled legs while trying to lift himself up—being conveyed toward a tank of scalding-hot water. The agent pointed to the bird and called out to the House of Raeford worker responsible for cutting such animals’ throats before they are taken to the scalding tank—who was reportedly “crouched against the wall dozing.” The bird was therefore drowned and/or burned to death. On another day, FSIS staff saw a worker “struggling to keep up with removing” birds who had been scalded and/or drowned to death, as the slaughterhouse tried to kill 175 birds per minute on one of its lines. A federal inspector also found a weak but alert live chicken covered with dead birds in a bin. At the Highway 117 location, on four separate days, FSIS agents found live chickens—some apparently fully conscious and “looking around”—on a line just prior to a tank of scalding-hot water.

21 U.S. Code § 461 (a) provides penalties of imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for such conduct. That mistreatment of live chickens persisted at these slaughterhouses shows that FSIS enforcement actions are insufficient to deter future violations and that criminal prosecution is in the best interests of both the animals killed there and the public.

Please let me know if I can assist your office. Thank you for your consideration and for the difficult work that you do.


Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

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