Nov. 22, 2011 -- In the wake of an ABC News investigation of its major egg supplier, Target is scrambling to find a new source of eggs, with shortages being reported at stores across the country just days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Spokesperson Jessica Carlson says the nation's second-largest retailer is working quickly to find a new source for eggs at its SuperTarget outlets after dumping Sparboe Farms, but acknowledged the timing isn't ideal for customers.
"We know and recognize that this is an important shopping time for guests, so we are working diligently to get eggs back in our stores as quickly as we can," said Carlson. She said prices would be unaffected, and that "a vast majority of our stores will have some eggs in stock by the end of this week."
ABC News first exposed animal abuse and unsanitary conditions at Sparboe Farms' egg-laying facilities in three states. After being shown hidden camera video shot by Mercy for Animals, as well as learning of an FDA warning letter sent to Sparboe regarding unsanitary conditions, McDonald's was the first of Sparboe's customers to dump the egg producer, followed quickly by Target, which said it had ended its relationship because of concerns about "unacceptable conditions." Since the investigation aired on "20/20," other grocery chains have followed suit, including Midwestern retailer Lunds and Byerly's.
SuperValu, which supplies more than 4,000 stores across the country, has also suspended Sparboe. Spokesman Mike Siemienas said the change affected mostly independent grocers, not the company-owned chain stores, and it doesn't expect any disruption in supply to customers.
ABC News has also learned that Albertsons stores in Colorado have dumped Sparboe, which supplied eggs under the store's brand. A spokesperson for Albertsons said it was concerned with the violations reported and will closely monitor any federal or state investigations.
But Hy-Vee, a grocery store chain based in Iowa, will continue to sell Sparboe eggs, according to spokeswoman Ruth Comer. Comer told ABC News the retailer is taking the allegations seriously and will be conducting its own investigation, including inspecting Sparboe's facilities firsthand.
Sparboe Farms produces hundreds of millions of eggs at its facilities in Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota. The company has said it was outraged by the video shot inside its facilities and has fired all employees responsible for the animal abuse caught on tape. A Sparboe spokesman would not say whether other major retailers had dropped the company, calling the information confidential and competitive.
Target has nearly 1,750 stores in 49 states, including more than 240 SuperTarget stores that sell groceries.