On its website, the high-end chicken company Bell & Evans paints a picture of the coddled chicken.

Its chickens are "humanely raised" in a "minimal stress" environment.

The reality - says a Washington D.C. animal rights group - is something entirely different.

In an undercover probe captured on video Compassion Over Killing alleges workers at the company's Lebanon County plant threw newly hatched live chicks into meat grinders.

Bell and Evans sells its "humanely raised,"  "organic" chickens to restaurants and leading grocers like Whole Foods and Wegmans.

"Consumers who are looking for cruelty-free meat need to know about this," said Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing. "Anyone concerned with their meat being cruelty-free should recognize that animal cruelty is standard practice in this industry."

The company said it is "proud of the way it treats animals" and is reviewing the video to determine whether it is their plant.

Meier told my colleague Allison Steele (story here) there are challenges to humanely raise chickens for mass consumption, but that consumers seeking cruelty-free food need to know the truth.

Last year the Humane Society of the United States conducted a similar investigation at Kreider Farms egg hatchery in Lancaster County. Video showed laying hens crammed in tiny cages, in a filthy, dark warehouse. In some cases live hens were housed with hens dead so long long they had mummified.

The company called the allegations a "gross distortion" of its practices. Earlier this year,  Sen. Michael Brubaker, in whose district Krieder is located, introduced what is known around the country as an "ag gag" bill to criminalize the dissemination of images taken inside agriculture facilities. The controversial bill was later amended and has not advanced. .

Interestingly, in 2009 a consumer asked Bell & Evans owner Scott Sechler  on his blog specifically whether the company throws baby chicks in meat grinders. The writer said Whole Foods had assured them they would never buy products from any supplier that treated animals in that cruel manner.

Sechler responded, "You can be confident that Bell & Evans do not participate in those "barbaric" methods."