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Ex-McDonald’s suppliers plead guilty to abusing chickens

October 30, 2015, 1:57 PM UTC
A worker puts together an order of Chicken McNuggets at a McDonald's Corp. restaurant in Little Falls, New Jersey, U.S.
A worker puts together an order of Chicken McNuggets at a McDonald's Corp. restaurant in Little Falls, New Jersey, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant chain, said sales at stores open at least 13 months rose 6.7 percent globally last month as beverages and Chicken McBites helped the U.S. business. Photographer: Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Emile Wamsteker — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two chicken farmers who once provided poultry to McDonald’s plead guilty to one count of animal cruelty, according to the animal rights organization that first exposed the abuses in an undercover video.

Thomas and Susan Blassingame, owner of the T & S Farm in Tennessee, were each sentenced to pay a fine of just $25 and court costs. According to USA Today, they will also be placed on a year’s probation.

The Blassingames were contracted by Tyson Foods(TSN) to supply chickens to McDonald’s (MCD) for the fast food giant’s Chicken McNuggets. That contract was severed after the non-profit Mercy for Animals went undercover at the farm and used a hidden camera to film the couple beating sickly chickens with spiked clubs.

The graphic video was denounced by both Tyson Foods – the second-largest food production company in the Fortune 500 – and McDonald’s. “We’re committed to animal well-being but don’t believe this video accurately depicts the treatment of chickens by the thousands of farmers who supply us,” Tyson Foods spokesman Worth Sparkman said at that time. Tyson supplies around 40 million chickens worldwide every week.


Mercy for Animals believes the fines levied were probably not extreme enough to deter future actions and called on both corporations to rewrite their animal welfare policies. “Instead of allowing animal abuse to continue unchecked at its chicken suppliers, McDonald’s must act immediately by implementing meaningful animal welfare policies to ensure that no more chickens are illegally tortured for its Chicken McNuggets,” said MfA president and founder Nathan Runkle in a statement.

McDonald’s has recently made moves to improve the way they’ve handled their food production, announcing in September that they would only serve eggs laid by cage-free chickens within the next 10 years.

Update: McDonald’s has provided Fortune with a statement regarding the ruling.

McDonald’s no longer uses chicken supplied by, nor does business with, T & S Farm. We have long believed treating animals with care and respect is an integral part of a responsible supply chain. We’re committed to working with animal welfare and industry experts to promote better management, strong employee education and verification of practices.