An animal rights group had one of its members question executives of the Kroger Co. grocery store chain at its annual shareholders meeting held here Thursday.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had member Lindsay Rajt, who also is a Kroger shareholder, ask during the meeting whether Kroger has plans to move toward a less cruel method of poultry slaughter, called "controlled-atmosphere killing" (CAK), instead of its current practice.
Now, poultry is dumped onto conveyor belts and slammed upside down by their legs into metal shackles, a procedure that often results in broken wings and legs. Birds are still conscious when their throats are cut, and many are then scalded to death in defeathering tanks.
CAK is considered a more humane method of killing. It involves slowly replacing the oxygen that chickens and turkeys breathe with a nonpoisonous gas that puts the birds to sleep while they are still in their transport crates.
Kroger executives made no commitment to ending the practice.
PETA tried to have a proposal stopping its current poultry killing method placed on the company's proxy in 2009, but the effort was rejected by Kroger and upheld by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In a letter Kroger sent to the SEC in February 2009, a company representative wrote, “The proposal deals with substantially the same subject matter as proposals submitted three prior years within the past five years, the proposal failed to receive at least 10 percent of the vote on the last submission, and it may be excluded under (an SEC rule).”
Nevertheless, PETA doesn't plan to stop lobbying for the change.
"Kroger may be an industry leader in sales revenue, but when it comes to the treatment of chickens and turkeys, the company is lagging far behind," said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman in a prepared statement. "Consumers care about animal welfare, so the best thing that any business can do is to take action to reduce animal abuse."
The meeting was held at the Duke Energy Convention Center on Elm Street.
Cincinnati-based Kroger reported $76 billion in sales during fiscal year 2008. It is the nation's largest grocery store chain, with 2,475 supermarkets and 798 fuel centers.