Actors from the hit ‘90s television show Baywatch are asking Aldi to improve chicken welfare standards in the US.
Working with nonprofit Mercy for Animals, 24 former cast members, including Alexandra Paul, Nicole Eggert, David Hasselhoff, and Erika Eleniak, wrote an open letter to the US CEO Jason Hart and the budget supermarket chain’s executives in Germany.
The letter asks Aldi to sign up for the Better Chicken Commitment, which provides a set of animal welfare guidelines. These have already been adopted by more than 200 companies, including fellow grocery chains Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market.
Aldi has pledged to improve chicken welfare in a number of its European locations already, including its home country Germany. The Baywatch cast wants the same commitments made in the US.
“Mercy For Animals is proud to have partnered with the incredible Baywatch cast members to call on ALDI USA to reduce suffering for chickens,” Chelsie Schadt, Mercy For Animals’ senior corporate campaigns manager told Plant Based News.
“Whether these 24 stars eat a plant-based diet or not, they understand the abuse and cruelty that happens on factory farms is unacceptable. [They] are lending their voices to this important cause to expose the mistreatment of animals.”
Aldi’s chicken welfare in the spotlight
In April this year, Mercy for Animals published findings from an undercover investigation into a farm that raised chickens for an Aldi supplier. Footage showed an overcrowded, dark shed with piles of rotting dead birds. Of those that were alive, many were injured or close to death.
The investigation placed Aldi in the lowest tier of Mercy for Animals’ US retailer report. The latter details the steps that chains are taking to improve animal welfare. Those in the lowest tier are deemed to be taking no meaningful action or falling below the commitments they have made.
“All of us were devastated to learn of the abuse that takes place at this Aldi supplier,” said Paul, who starred as Baywatch fan-favorite Stephanie Holden.
“We believe no animal should be treated this way. We are proud to partner with Mercy For Animals and bring these issues to light. Our hope is that Aldi leaders will make the right choice and adopt policies that will reduce animal suffering.”
Following the exposé of cruelty in Aldi’s supply chain, consumers have also called for improvements.
Protests have been held outside the Aldi US headquarters in Batavia, Illinois, alongside retail outlet demonstrations and a campaign outside the Wrigley Field baseball stadium.
“Aldi USA continues to disregard unconscionable suffering, which no animal should endure. We hope Aldi leadership recognizes consumers do want to see change and no longer accept the worst abuses committed at factory farms,” Schadt concluded.
The plight of broiler chickens
Raised purely for meat, broiler chickens are subjected to some of the worst conditions in the food system. Compassion in World Farming has compiled a dossier detailing the life cycle and standard practices used to rear the birds. These can include mutilation, food restriction, and exposure to unsanitary living spaces.
Broiler chickens are frequently contained in overcrowded sheds. These are littered with dead or dying birds, and offer no access to enrichment equipment, such as perches. Yet despite the cruelty that the chickens face, there is no sign of their consumption slowing.
The average US citizen is estimated to eat at least 95.8 lbs of broiler chicken meat every year. This figure is expected to rise to around 101 lbs within the next eight years. Furthermore, up to 19 percent of chicken meat is discarded as spoilage or waste.
To keep up with demand, the US is now recognized as the largest producer of chicken meat, with 20.4 million metric tons recorded in 2021. Though consumers are unlikely to know exactly how their meat has been produced.
A 2017 Ipsos group poll revealed that 75 percent of US consumers believed they regularly bought “humane” products. In reality, research suggests that just one percent of food animals are reared away from factory farm conditions.