Butterball’s PR Staff Mysteriously Absent Pre-Thanksgiving

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/438146226/sizes/m/in/photostream/" target="_blank">PinkMoose</a>/Flickr

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A while back, the animal advocacy group Mercy For Animals turned up some alarming footage of workers at a Butterball facility kicking and throwing turkeys and hitting them with metal rods. MFA sent out a bunch of emails yesterday reminding reporters of that awful footage. I thought this might be a good opportunity to ask Butterball a few questions about its operations—including its reaction to MFA’s allegations. So I sent the company a few questions, including: 

  • How many turkeys does Butterball sell every year?
  • How long does it take for an average Butterball turkey to reach slaughter age?
  • Are Butterball turkeys fed antibiotics? How about ractopamine (Topmax)? Any other growth enhancers?
  • How has Butterball responded to Mercy For Animals’ allegations of abuse at factories?

I got an away message from the first spokeswoman I tried, so I forwarded it along to someone else. Here’s what I got back:

I hope you’re well today. I received your note below from my colleague, Bridget.
Unfortunately, resources who are appropriate to answer these questions are limited this week and are unavailable to respond by your deadline.

I wrote back:

Okay, but it does seem like this week of all weeks would be a crucial one for answering these questions! I’d really like to include Butterball’s input if at all possible.

No dice. The spokeswoman responded:

Thanks, Kiera. Due to scheduling, we just won’t be able to make it work. Re: the MFA allegations, I can share with you the company statement if you’d like – let me know.

I wrote:

Okay. Can you at least tell me whether Butterball uses antibiotics, ractopamine, and/or other growth enhancers?

And…crickets. No company statement, no answers on growth-enhancers, nada. Mind you, this is the same company that runs a fully-staffed hotline to tell you how to cook your turkey. The company’s website boasts that “No question is too tough for these turkey talkers, and they are ready and excited to tackle any challenge you throw at them.” 

Except, it seems, when it comes to the turkeys themselves.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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