MPI says Northland chicken farm doing nothing wrong despite video of rotting birds

No evidence of animal welfare offences has been found at a Northland caged-egg farm despite the release of a video showing dead chickens rotting inside.

The footage, which was filmed covertly at Northern Eggs near Whangarei and provided exclusively to Newshub, showed dead chickens, blood close to where eggs were laid, a severely egg-bound hen and hens lacking in wing feathers.

The farm, which can house up to 175,000 chickens and supplies eggs to the Morning Harvest brand, has drawn criticism from animal activists. 

"These birds are supposed to be checked regularly, and that's obviously not happening," said Marianne Macdonald, SAFE's campaigns manager.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) opened an investigation and sent a representative to visit the farm three days after the farm was alerted to the footage.

On Friday, MPI said it found no breaches of minimum standards or any evidence to support animal welfare offences.

MPI director compliance Gary Orr said: "The footage of two dead birds is not something anybody wants to see but MPI is cognisant this farm can be responsible for the care of up to one hundred and seventy five thousand birds at a time."

In a statement, Northern Eggs said it appeared the farm had been broken into earlier this month by animal activists "intent on obtaining images to bring the colony production system into disrepute".

Colony cages are replacing battery cages, which will become illegal in 2023, but it will be difficult to buy caged eggs come 2025, as supermarkets have promised to stop selling them.

The statement said seeing birds in a distressed state was difficult for farms and that all regulatory standards were consistently exceeded. Some birds may be lacking in feathers at the end of their laying cycle, the farm said, while unwell birds can sometimes be missed despite daily routine checks by multiple staff.