The Humane Society of the United States Becomes Seaboard Corporation Shareholder Following Company’s Butterball Buyout

As part of its efforts encouraging turkey giant Butterball to switch to a more humane slaughter method called controlled-atmosphere killing, The Humane Society of the United States announced Monday that it has purchased stock in Seaboard Corporation (NYSE: SEB). The Shawnee Mission, Kans.-based company announced late last week that it is purchasing a 50 percent stake in Butterball.

The HSUS intends to use its stockholder position to move Butterball away from a particularly cruel but standard method of slaughter. Currently, in Butterball’s slaughter plants, workers unload live turkeys from crates and force their legs into metal shackles. Birds are then shocked with electrified water and have their throats cut, often while they are conscious. After, they enter a tank of scalding water. Some birds are still conscious at this point and drown in the scalding-hot water.

“Butterball’s slaughter method is outdated and particularly cruel,” stated Paul Shapiro, senior director of The HSUS’s factory farming campaign. “Seaboard can use its new position as a major stakeholder to move Butterball toward reducing animal suffering by switching to controlled-atmosphere killing, which would benefit animals and shareholders alike.”

The HSUS has encouraged Butterball to switch to controlled-atmosphere killing, which would eliminate these abuses by killing birds with a mixture of inert gases while they are still in transport crates. With CAK, workers never handle live birds, and there is no chance for live-throat cutting or -scalding. CAK—which is used by seven U.S. turkey slaughterhouses as well as to kill roughly 75 percent of all turkeys in the United Kingdom—has also been shown to have an array of financial benefits, including improved product quality and yield, as well as reduced contamination and worker injuries.

Renowned animal scientist Temple Grandin, Ph.D., writes that “overall bird welfare would be improved with gas stunning,” and that “The U.S. poultry industry should move toward” this method.


  • Many major poultry retailers—including Quiznos, Ruby Tuesday, Safeway, Harris Teeter, Winn-Dixie and Costco—have begun using turkey slaughtered by CAK. Others—including Burger King, Chipotle, Popeye’s, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.—give purchasing preference to chicken suppliers that switch to CAK.
  • Workers at an Arkansas Butterball facility were documented punching and kicking live birds, stomping on birds’ heads, and sexually assaulting them.

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