The Humane Society of the United States has released an undercover video that the group took at a Virginia facility owned by Murphy-Brown Farms, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.

According to an HSUS news release, the group conducted a month-long investigation at a Smithfield/Murphy-Brown breeding facility in Waverly, Va. An HSUS undercover investigator worked inside the 1,000-sow production system, and “documented the inhumane treatment of sows,” according to a background document prepared by HSUS.

The animal rights group posted a video report on the group’s website.

“Smithfield Foods is conducting an internal investigation and has retained a third-party expert to conduct an independent investigation and has vowed to take appropriate actions to ensure the safety and well-being of their animals and employees.” according to Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board.

Smithfield is the world's largest pork producer. The company had committed to converting it’s gestation-sow housing system from stalls to pens over a course of years. However, the severe economic downturn that hit U.S. agriculture and the pork industry in particular from 2007 through early this year, delayed that course.

HSUS released photographs allegedly taken at the facility by HSUS reporters, showing sows with sores. “Sows suffered from open pressure sores and other ulcers and wounds that developed from their unmitigated confinement and their inability to change positions in the crate,” says the HSUS report.

"America’s pork producers condemn any mistreatment of animals,” Novak emphasizes. “We take seriously our ethical responsibility for the proper care of our animals. We are committed to continually improving our standard of care and our adherence to the ethical principles that are a part of our heritage.”

NPB provides education and training programs – including Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the Transport Quality Assurance Program – to ensure that all persons involved in the care of pigs understand their ethical responsibility and possess the skills necessary to provide good care, Novak points out

You can read HSUS’ background document here.

By Rick Jordahl and Marlys Miller, PORK magazine editors