FREMONT — An animal-rights organization is requesting a criminal probe into the Lincoln Premium Poultry and Costco chicken plant in Fremont after more than 1,600 chickens were allegedly found dead because of overcrowding last year.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Monday it sent a letter to newly appointed Dodge County Attorney Paul Vaughan to request a probe and applicable charges under Nebraska's livestock neglect law.
Vaughan confirmed he received the letter and forwarded it to the Fremont Police Department.
PETA alleges it obtained reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which documented several incidents.
The reports allege Lincoln Premium Poultry had held approximately 30,500 chickens in severely crowded crates on trucks overnight without food or water on Jan. 3, 2020, resulting in the deaths of 1,622 birds the next day.
A USDA representative who was present on the scene said that two trailers of birds received the following day weighed 10,000 to 20,000 pounds more than the average weight.
"It is believed that the prolonged time being held in modules without access to food and water, in crowded conditions, led to the higher mortality rates," the report stated.
The report also states that the USDA representative met with someone from Lincoln Premium Poultry, who said it would investigate the overcrowding.
PETA alleged in its letter to Vaughan that Lincoln Premium Poultry committed a felony and violated state law by "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" neglecting a livestock animal that results in serious injury or death.
Additionally, the reports alleges what PETA called "additional violations of federal law" at the plant, including live chickens being scalded, drowned, buried under carcasses and trapped between transport modules.
The reports also show that chickens were found dead on trucks that were hauled through freezing rain and a "dramatic drop in temperature."
"These reports reveal a horror show of birds dying of thirst, hunger and exposure on trucks; drowning in scalding-hot water; and languishing under piles of bodies," PETA senior vice president Daphna Nachminovitch said in a written statement.
The allegations are the second to come from an animal-rights organization to the plant, which opened in southeast Fremont in late 2019.
In February, Mercy for Animals released a video and report after investigating the plant, alleging overcrowding and other animal abuse incidents.
"Many of these animals endured short lives of chronic pain before succumbing to their ailments," the group's report read. "Large piles of dead, rotting animals lay on the facility’s grounds outside the barns housing live chickens."
Jessica Kolterman, the director of administration for Lincoln Premium Poultry, told the Journal Star the plant did not dispute the video and said it depicted "normal and uneventful livestock activity."
"Yes, there are going to be some (animals) that don't make it," she said. "That's just the nature of livestock."