By LEE FERRAN
Gruesome undercover video shot by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals shows what appears to be brutal treatment of cows at a dairy farm in Wisconsin that is in the supply chain for DiGiorno's pizza.
The video, which Mercy for Animals says was shot in October, shows workers beating and prodding the cows and using heavy farm equipment to drag cows that the group says are too sick to walk. The video shows cows with open wounds and housed in apparently filthy conditions. Several times workers are heard cursing at the cows as they beat them.
"There's a culture of cruelty that was allowed to fester at this factory farm facility," Matt Rice, director of investigations at Mercy for Animals, told ABC News. "No socially responsible corporation should support dairy operations that beat, kick, mutilate and drag animals."
The Wiese Brothers Farm, lying a couple dozen miles south of Green Bay, supplies milk to the farming collective Foremost Farms, which in turn supplies cheese to DiGiorno for its popular frozen pizzas.
A spokesperson for Nestle, which owns DiGiorno, told ABC News the company contacted Foremost Farms after learning of the allegations and said it would not use any cheese made from the milk from the Wiese Brothers Farm.
"Nestle is outraged and deeply saddened by the mistreatment of animals shown in this video," a company statement said. "We expect all of our suppliers and their suppliers to meet our stringent guidelines... Nestle is committed to proper animal handling... We will not knowingly work with companies that violate our Responsible Sourcing Guidelines."
A spokesperson for Foremost Farms said that it too was "extremely disappointed by the animal treatment depicted in the video" and said the company is "no longer receiving milk from this farm."
"We have never condoned this behavior, and we work hard to educate all our members and their employees about the importance of animal care and well-being," Foremost said in a statement. "Animal welfare is critically important to all of us in the dairy food chain, from the farmer to the cooperative, to our customers and consumers."
In an email, Wiese Brothers Farm said the company was unaware of the abuse taking place in its facility and was "shocked and saddened to see a few of our employees not following our farm's policies for proper animal care."
"We have zero tolerance for animal abuse," the company said. "We are committed to providing optimal care and ask all our employees to demonstrate ongoing respect for every animal at all times."
Wiese Brothers Farm said two employees have been terminated and a third has been removed from handling the animals. The company also said that employees will be shadowed by their supervisor periodically, without notice, to ensure protocols are followed.
"Each of these actions, along with any others we add as appropriate, will help us ensure the behaviors seen in this video are never repeated on our farm," the company said.
Mercy for Animals' Rice said the Wiese Brothers Farm investigation is the latest of two dozen undercover investigations into food suppliers around the country, and that each one found appalling conditions.
"They [undercover investigators] emerge with images that shock and horrify most Americans," Rice said. "We feel that people have a right to know where their food comes from and how animals are abused on these factory farms so they can make informed choices."
DiGiorno last made headlines last week for much more lighthearted fare, when its ad agency spontaneously live tweeted "The Sound of Music," replacing famous lines with references to its pizza.
In light of the animal abuse reports, the company may have blundered on social media today, however, as it is currently promoting the hash tag #DiGiorNOYOUDIDNT.