A Waikato poultry farm, owned by Foodstuffs director and former Fonterra chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden as a shareholder, came under fire this week after animal activists published graphic footage showing hens trapped beneath perches and even carcasses left to rot alongside live animals. The video is said to have been shot last month at Heyden Farms, which use the new colony cages instead of smaller battery cages and sells its eggs under the Morning Harvest label.

Soon afterwards, an MPI spokesman pointed out that the ministry had carried out an unannounced inspection. The MPI investigation found that only some of the standards were not being met and, despite deeming the conditions shown in the video as ‘not acceptable’, said that corrective action was being taken.

Meanwhile, both supermarket chains explained that it was up to eggs suppliers’, in this case Independent Egg Producers Co-op, to ensure their farms meet the animal welfare standards. Unlike Foodstuffs, though, Countdown announced it would stop stocking Heyden eggs until further notice.

“Foodstuffs has not been alerted by MPI to any food safety issues associated with product from the farm in question,” Antoinette Laird, Foodstuffs’ head of external relations, told SupermarketNews.
“Following the MPI investigation into the issues raised by SAFE, we are aware that corrective actions have been taken at the farm. As a business we follow the direction of MPI and we have not received any evidence to date to support the removal of the products from shelf.”

As for a possible conflict of interest involving one of its directors, Laird said that, like any large company, Foodstuffs has very clear and proven conflict avoidance management processes.
“Directors declare their personal interests when they take on a directorship position and processes are in place that clearly define the steps required to avoid conflict. This is a standard business practice.”

The Egg Producers Federation emphasised that this was an isolated incident, not representative of colony farming as a whole, which maintains lower mortality and disease rates as well as higher hygiene standards.