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Advocates Optimistic Agriculture Department Will Probe Egg Factory

Local advocates are optimistic the state will probe inhumane conditions at a local egg farm in Turner. (HSUS).
Local advocates are optimistic the state will probe inhumane conditions at a local egg farm in Turner. (HSUS).
June 13, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine found itself in the spotlight last week for harsh conditions at a local farm.

An undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States documents extreme crowding and unsanitary conditions at the large egg-producing factory farm in Turner, with about 4 million egg-laying chickens crammed into 70 warehouses.

Katie Hansberry, state director in Maine for the Humane Society, says the video shows hens forced to live in cages with dead and decomposing corpses.

She says the Humane Society has reached out to the state for action.

"We have been in touch briefly with the state of Maine's Agriculture Department and we are optimistic that they are going to pursue this investigation, and we are looking forward to working with them on that," she states.

Hillandale Farms, which is based in Pennsylvania, says it is looking into practices at the farm and also has asked the Maine Department of Agriculture to investigate.

Paul Shapiro, the Humane Society's vice president for farm animal protection, says Hillandale Farms has a sordid history.

Last year the owner, Jack DeCoster, was sentenced to federal prison for his role in the nation's largest egg recall.

"In 2009, when Jack DeCoster was managing this facility in Maine, the company settled charges of animal cruelty that led them to pay a $25,000 fine and an extra $100,000 for the state to help with egg farm inspections," Shapiro relates.

Major companies including Costco, McDonald's and Walmart have promised to buy only cage-free eggs.

Shapiro says that's not only better for the chickens, it's healthier for consumers too.

"The Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Food Safety endorsed this switch to cage-free systems because they know that cage-confinement operations tend to have more salmonella than do cage-free operations," he states.

A 2010 salmonella outbreak that sickened tens of thousands of people was traced to an Iowa facility owned by Jack DeCoster.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME