Feds Find Over 9,000 Hens Frozen Dead in Subzero Temperatures on Trucks at Slaughterhouse

Armed with a newly released U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing that more than 25,000 chickens transported from Ohio were left on trailers outside the Butterfield Foods slaughterhouse overnight as the wind chill plummeted to minus 32 degrees—slowly and painfully killing over 9,100 birds—PETA sent a letter to Watonwan County Attorney Stephen Lindee urging him to review the matter and file whatever criminal charges are warranted against the facility management and workers responsible for the birds’ suffering and deaths.

“Many hens froze solid, and the survivors were almost featherless, suggesting that they were discarded after being worn out as egg-laying ‘machines’ before reaching this subzero hell,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “Abandoning these birds, who were already in wretched condition, to die in agony warrants a criminal probe—and because this systemic cruelty is typical of the meat industry, it’s also why PETA advocates for vegan eating.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Lindee follows.

April 13, 2021

The Honorable Stephen Lindee

Watonwan County Attorney

Dear Mr. Lindee:

I’m writing to request that your office (and the local law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file applicable criminal charges against Butterfield Foods Company and the workers responsible for leaving 25,867 chickens on three trailers in an open shed—as the wind chill plummeted to -32 degrees—at its slaughterhouse located at 225 Hubbard Ave. in Butterfield. More than 9,000 of the animals died as a result. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incident in the attached report, which PETA just obtained via a public records request.

According to the report, the animals were hauled from Ohio—arriving at Butterfield Foods beginning at approximately midnight on February 20, 2020—and were kept in an unheated, three-sided shed. At approximately 8 a.m., a federal agent found hens frozen to the metal cages on two trailers and observed that “[n]early every hen visible” on the bottom rows of one trailer was “frozen solid.” The survivors were shivering and “had almost no feathers”—suggesting that the chickens confined to these trailers were “spent” factory-farmed, egg-laying hens. While the birds were held at Butterfield Foods, the temperature at the St. James Municipal Airport was between -8 and -17 degrees. At least 9,150 of the chickens from the three trucks were found dead, many of them frozen.

This conduct may violate Minn. Stat § 343.21. Please note that FSIS’ action doesn’t preempt criminal liability under state law for slaughterhouses or their workers who perpetrate acts of cruelty to animals.

Please let me know if I can assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the difficult work that you do.


Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

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