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Breaking the Silence

Pioneering MFA investigation exposes suffering and neglect in Brazil's chicken industry

A mass of white bodies grayed by filth covers a shed’s floor. A closer look reveals birds jostling for space, many with severe feather loss.

Chickens drag themselves across the ground, unable to walk. Some birds thrash in pain. Others lie dead.

A chick's head droops over the edge of a machine. Left to die alone, neck broken, the little bird writhes and kicks.

These scenes inside a chicken factory farm in Brazil show heartbreaking conditions few people have witnessed—until now.

MFA investigators went into five of the country’s farms to expose how 6 billion birds are treated every year.

The farms supply chickens to two of the country’s—and the world’s—biggest meat companies, BRF and JBS.

What cameras captured was standard but shocking: birds crammed by the thousands into feces-laden sheds, suffering the chaos of overcrowding and the pain of untreated illness and injury. Chickens in these facilities are bred to grow six times their natural weight and so quickly that many are unable to walk without severe pain. Some can’t walk at all, and they die of starvation or dehydration when food and water are out of reach.

Factory farmers know the conditions and growth rates are agonizing for chickens. But profit is key. So the babies who are sick or injured or who don’t grow fast enough are killed. They call these birds “scrap.” In one clip, a worker grabs a small chick and smashes the bird’s neck against the edge of a feed bin. He then tosses the chick to the ground near another bird whose neck has already been broken, wings flapping in distress.

BuzzFeed in Brazil broke the story, sharing the revolting video and facts of the investigation with millions of people. Coverage by several other national outlets sparked even farther-ranging disgust.

The media attention was so great that the Brazilian Animal Protein Association issued a statement attempting to discredit the findings. But the evidence was clear. In fact, Lucas Alvarenga, MFA’s senior vice president in Brazil, points out that because the investigation took place at five different farms, it shows that these atrocious conditions are not isolated to one facility but pervade the industry.

And the industry’s record is far from clean. Our investigation comes after the European Union banned imports from 20 Brazilian poultry plants after a scandal involving the bribing of slaughterhouse inspectors to allow the sale of spoiled meat.

Brazil is the leading exporter and third-largest producer of chicken meat in the world, after China and the United States, and the second-largest producer of all meat combined. Yet before MFA started working in Brazil, the public wasn’t paying much attention to the plight of farmed animals there.

But this is changing.

Through undercover investigations, corporate campaigns, and extensive community outreach, the MFA team in Brazil is shining a light on the terrible conditions in the country’s factory farms.

The public is outraged. One viewer commented on the video, “I will never understand how people can ignore this.” MFA will work tirelessly to ensure they don’t.

Watch

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