McDonald's McRib's Deep, Dark Secret: Animal CrueltyMcDonald's (MCD) reintroduction of the McRib sandwich -- boneless pork fast-food fare with an avid fan following -- has made news headlines and mouths water. However, consumers who are eagerly awaiting the limited-time offer to wolf down McRib sandwiches may not realize that McDonald's pork products contain a secret, unappetizing ingredient: pain.

The Humane Society of the United States has filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging Smithfield Foods (SFD) has made false claims about its animal welfare and environmental initiatives. At issue is that federal securities law does in fact prohibit the "making of any false statement of a material fact or the omission of a material fact that would prevent a statement from being misleading."

Smithfield Foods happens to supply pork products to McDonald's, and even received McDonald's "supplier sustainability" award. The Humane Society contends that Smithfield's statements are misleading because it says it bestows "ideal" living conditions on its animals, where "every need is met." This may depend on one's own rationalized definition of what "ideal" living conditions and "needs" are for many animals that reside in the modern food chain.

The Humane Society has taken action against Smithfield's claims, since it still confines its breeding sows in gestation crates. The Humane Society points out that not only do gestation crates forbid their occupants' movements for their entire lives, but Smithfield has subjected animals to outrageously less-than-ideal treatment such as castration, tail-trimming, and tooth extraction without painkillers.

That's not exactly appetizing, McRib fans. The Humane Society picked the perfect time to raise the alarm, given the heavy promotional fanfare surrounding the McRib launch, as well as Smithfield's launch of a new site touting its corporate responsibility.

Backing away from the antiquated, cruel use of gestation crates isn't impossible. The Humane Society has acknowledged that companies like Whole Foods Market (WFM), Chipotle (CMG), Wendy's (WEN), Sonic (SONC), Harris Teeter, Quiznos, and Safeway (SWY) have made great strides in avoiding pork suppliers that indulge in the atrocious practice. (In addition, a recent study from Iowa State University showed that it's actually more economical to breed pigs in groups rather than in inhumane, confining crates.)

It'll be interesting to see how the SEC rules on the Humane Society's complaint against Smithfield. Regardless of that outcome, animal welfare advocates everywhere should be thankful the organization is raising consumer awareness about the fact that the recipe for the McRib may contain a far too heavy dose of cruelty. Think twice at the drive-thru, folks.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market.

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Goodness, Ignorance certainly is bliss. The sows are kept in farrowing crates because they will often lay down and squash their pigs. They will also often eat their own pigs. Castration, pulling teeth etc has always been done without pain killers. Do you think cattle are castrated with pain killers? If they don't pull the teeth and cut the tails, the pigs will fight each other, bite tails and inflict pain to each other. I thought raising animals for meat the "natural" way without the various vaccines, steroids etc was the style now, anyway.

November 04 2011 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All the crap put into these animals and others like duck, or cows it's a wonder society is so full of cancer.

November 04 2011 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wouid like some painkillers in my pork... I have a backache.

November 04 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Nature is cruel under some humans defintions.Humans are the top predator on the globe.We chose our methods of predation.Cruelty is only used in cases of man on man killings.

November 04 2011 at 1:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

all of you make me sick! they are animals! there are humane ways of putting animals down. WHY MAKE THEM SUFFER FIRST!

November 04 2011 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would recommend Motley Fool get the facts rather that accepting an allegation as fact. Makes you wonder about the validity of Motley's research and recommendations.

November 04 2011 at 1:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Funny, and I thought execution of the animal was the most cruel thing one could inflict! And maybe the next time a lion hunts down a gazelle to exhaustion and bites into it without the use of pain killers, the Humane Society can lodge a complaint! Sissies, we're becoming a nation of sissies. I know, better to let people starve to death than utilize mass market breeding techniques that can feed multitudes of people inexpensively.

November 04 2011 at 1:24 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

well that sounds about right seeings how their burgers are only 20 % beef I have to wonder why we as consumers don't seem to care as long as it's hot and fast

November 04 2011 at 12:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to coreys3kids's comment

This is about the McRib, not burgers.....

November 04 2011 at 1:11 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

PETA...People Eating Tasty Animals. I'm going to buy a McRib sandwich today as my response to another stupid lawsuit like this one. Children are starving to death worldwide and these morons worry about pig painkillers.

November 04 2011 at 12:28 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to revfitz22's comment

I hope you choke on your pig sandwich. Hey idiot, what does children starving to death have to do with the treatment of these pigs at Smithfield Farms? That is two separate and not connected issues

November 04 2011 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thats why I only go to a real BBQ joint for my Ribs !!!!

November 04 2011 at 12:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply