The Mercy for Animals’ undercover video release on Wednesday was orchestrated specifically to increase pressure on food retailers—in this case, Kroger, Costco, Safeway and Hy-Vee. The animal rights group believes that targeting retailers is a more effective route to initiating change than trying to sway the American public.

MFA sent an undercover investigator into an Iowa Select Farms’ operation from April to June of this year to video tape various practices. (See “Video focuses on Iowa Select Farms; industry responds”.)

However, the real target of the video effort is the four food retailers as MFA held consecutive press conferences to release the video in the respective retailers’ headquarter cities.

MFA’s website states “Sadly, grocery giants Kroger, Costco, Safeway, and Hy-Vee condone confining animals in crates barely larger than their bodies by selling pork from producers who use gestation crates…These corporations have both the power and ethical responsibility to reject this abusive factory farming practice by immediately adopting policies that require suppliers to phase out their use of gestation crates.” Also at the end of the 2.5 minute video, the logos of the four targeted retailers are displayed.

"We are looking at grocery chains buying from this facility (Iowa Select Farms) and asking them to implement stronger animal welfare policies. They have a responsibility to make sure animals that appear on their store shelves are not mistreated," says Nathan Runkle, MFA's executive director.

While various animal activist groups have used secretly recorded videos to raise public awareness in the past, “this was among the first major efforts to use such recordings to pressure retailers,” he adds. MFA previously used another video to convince Costco to change its policies dealing with veal obtained from an Ohio producer.

Ahead of Wednesday’s news conference, MFA meet with or sent letters to heads of the four targeted retail chains, including access to the undercover video.

In the letter, MFA told the retailers that they “condone and sanction” the cruelty by the retailers’ “lack of strict animal welfare policies and procedures.” MFA’s letter asked the retailers to “adopt animal welfare policies prohibiting the sale of any and all pork from facilities that cruelly confine mother sows in crates so small they cannot turn around or even clean themselves. We urge you to immediately make a public comment by adopting a 100 percent crate-free policy that will be fully implemented by 2017.”

The letter goes on to say, “MFA further asks that you also immediately implement policies prohibiting the sale of products from suppliers who fail to provide even the basic anesthesia during castration and tail docking procedures.”

MFA is a Chicago-based organization, with the stated mission of “preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.”

On it’s website, the group states, “As MFA works to expose and end the exploitation of animals at the hands of the meat, egg and dairy industries, consumers still hold the greatest power of all to prevent needless suffering of farmed animals by adopting a healthy and humane vegan diet.” the group states.

Also on Wednesday, the Animal Welfare Institute came forward asking grocery store and restaurant chains to monitor the animal welfare record of their meat suppliers and refuse to deal with any company that repeatedly violates humane standards. In a letter to retailers, AWI President Cathy Liss urged retailers to not do business with companies on AWI's list of repeat offenders of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the federal law regulating the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses.