Egg Farms Responsible for Salmonella Outbreak Want to Sell Their Eggs Again

Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg were the two egg companies implicated in the salmonella infections that sickened so many Americans this past summer. The FDA traced the salmonella back to three farms owned by Wright County Egg and to two farms owned by Hillandale Farms. Over a half billion eggs from the two companies were recalled in August.

The FDA conducted detailed inspections of the farms in August and found multiple health and safety violations at all five farms. The two companies agreed not to ship eggs from those facilities until the FDA deemed them safe.

Hillandale Farms Passed Inspection – Somewhat

Hillandale is no longer producing eggs at the farm in Alden, Iowa. They submitted a plan for the other farm, located in West Union, Iowa. They have completely removed chickens from two of the houses and will clean and disinfect the houses before moving chickens back in.

Three more houses have been found salmonella-free. It’s eggs from these three houses that started shipping to stores this week (pdf).

Four of the houses still have chickens in them, but the FDA wants to test these eggs until they are certain there is no more salmonella. Hillandale Farms has promised to test these eggs monthly for the remaining life of the flock. Chickens live 10-15 years, although hens don’t lay eggs their entire lives.

Wright County Egg – Did They Even Try?

Wright County Egg received the same inspections that Hillandale Farms received. However, the owner of Wright County Egg, Austin Decoster, seems to have done little or nothing to clean up the egg facilities.

Wright County Egg submitted to the FDA a “Quality Egg Bio-security Plan” (Quality Egg is the incorporated name of Wright County Egg) on 11 Aug 2010. The FDA sent a warning letter to the company this week, noting that the Plan had not been implemented.

The FDA’s letter lists specific areas where Wright County Egg failed to implement their own plan, including inadequate maintenance of buildings, so that birds and other wildlife had multiple entry routes into the hen houses.

Multiple rodent burrows in twenty different hen houses were not sealed. Those rats are still living free among the hens. Live mice were observed in twenty hen houses – not the exact same list of houses where the burrows were found, but the list has some overlap.

Just Scoop the Poop Already

Manure is seeping through the concrete foundation to the outside of thirteen of the houses. Maggots and live flies “too numerous to count” were found in twenty of the houses – in the manure pit, on the egg belts, shell eggs, in the feed, and in walkways.

Flies are a normal part of raising animals, but when there are swarms of them, or if they are swarming around non-living objects, like the egg belts, most farmers would figure out something was wrong and fix it. Not the Decosters.

This egg recall has provided an illuminating look inside the operations of a factory farm. While neither company deserves praise for their part in the salmonella infections, Hillandale Farms is working on improving their operation.  It surprises me that, even after so many illnesses and all the media attention, the owners of Wright County Egg did nothing to improve their operations.

Image by Minimalist Stuff, used with a Creative Commons license.

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