Another egg recall…..
Surprising? Not really. The company’s name might be different this time, but the players are the same.
It’s a tangled web that all boils down to repeat violators continuing to operate in “business as usual” mode, continuing to house more chickens and sell more eggs than the mind can imagine, continuing to make lots of money while paying occasional fines like they were for overdue library books, and continuing to endanger the health of millions of people, plus subject millions of sentient beings to miserable and cruel conditions.
The company in the spotlight this time ~ Ohio Fresh Eggs ~ Ohio’s largest egg producer with 12 production facilities in Ohio ~ producing over 5 million eggs PER DAY. One location alone houses 3 million laying chickens.
288,000 eggs (24,000 dozen) from Ohio Fresh Eggs have been recalled by Cal-Maine Foods who purchased the eggs in October and had them repackaged and distributed to various wholesalers and retailers. Cal-Maine issued the voluntary recall after being notified by the FDA that a routine test done at Ohio Fresh Eggs revealed salmonella.
And yes, it is another company tied to Austin “Jack” DeCoster (of Wright County Egg named in this year’s massive egg recall), his right-hand man John Glessner, and Orland Bethel, the owner of Hillandale Farms (also named in this year’s previous massive recall) and who took the 5th during the recent egg recall congressional hearing.
One might suggest Ohio Fresh Eggs did not have a particularly auspicious start as it took over the previous mega-farm, Buckeye Farms, owned by Anton Pohlmann, also known as “The Chicken Hitler.” Pohlmann’s mega-farm racked up so many violations (including contempt of court for failing to obey terms of lawsuits) over the 20 years he was in business that the state had to create a department to deal with him. But yes, you read that right. He stayed in business for more than 20 years. Finally, Buckeye Farms was taken over by the state and Pohlmann went home to Germany where he had been banned from ever owning animals due to violations there as well.
Jack DeCoster is the largest investor in Ohio Fresh Eggs. He footed the bill for Orland Bethel and Don Hershey to purchase the farm, allegedly to avoid paying capital gains after selling his Iowa hog farms. Bethel and Hershey, named as owners, contributed $10,000 each, compared to DeCoster’s $126 million. Hershey was being repaid for money he put into repairing and rebuilding the facilities and Bethel’s Hillandale Farms would receive shipments of eggs from Ohio Fresh Eggs.
John Glessner, DeCoster’s longtime associate whose own company had multiple violations over several years and who was sentenced to jail time (yet never had to serve any of it) for his part in supplying DeCoster with illegal immigrants, serves as Ohio Fresh Eggs’ director of operations. In a 2008 Columbus Dispatch article, Hershey notes that Glessner runs the show and that Glessner and DeCoster have all the money in it.
Although Buckeye Farms’ record of violations was horrific, Ohio Fresh Eggs has had their share of problems as well. The state tried to shut them down when learning that DeCoster (named a habitual violator in Iowa) was the primary investor and had conveniently not been named as an owner on any of the permits and filing documents. DeCoster appealed and won.
Since receiving it’s operating permit in 2003, the company has received 57 “warnings” and “notices of deficiency from the state,” some as recent as April 2010, plus numerous complaints from area residents about fly and rodent infestations. In 2004, Mercy for Animals released shocking investigative video and photographs of cruel conditions in their facilities. Yet, a representative of the Ohio Department of Agriculture said the company is watched closely and problems are quickly brought to their attention. In 2006, 4 million eggs from Ohio Fresh Eggs were barred from sale as they had been stored in a barn at room temperature for a lengthy amount of time. A spokesman for the company said the eggs were not intended for retail sale, but were being considered for sale as animal feed.
Warnings? Notices of deficiency? What is really done about these problems? Apparently only one violation required legal action and that involved egg wash water from their facility housing approximately 3 million chickens ending up in a creek. In 2009, for that violation, Ohio Fresh Eggs received 3 years of probation, a $150,000 fine, and was ordered to donate another $150,000 to environmental groups. Probably not that big of a bill to a company making millions annually.
So when will these repeat violators be penalized to the point where it actually makes a difference? What will it take for them to either operate safely or shut down? How many chances do they get and why? Why doesn’t it matter when the health of millions of people, not to mention the lives of millions of sentient chickens are on the line? Why would anyone continue to support these cruel, corruption-plagued, violation-laden animal agribusiness industries?
Stay tuned. With 3 million chickens living on one farm (up to 100,000 in a building) and similar mega-factories for pigs (10,000+ in one building), turkeys (25,000 in one building), and cows (as many as 8,000 dairy cows), the next recall is likely just around the corner.