Jens Manuel Krogstad and Phil Brasher at the Des Moines Register this morning published another article on the conditions at Wright County Egg during the egg outbreak . . . and, for some, extending back a decade or more. The reports came from past and present workers at the company.
- Dozens of chickens died daily, their bodies lying undiscovered in cages for days, and perhaps weeks, at a time, they said. "There’s always been mice," former worker Lucas Garcias said through an interpreter. "I saw maggots and sometimes mice on the conveyor belt." NOTE: the presence of rodents and other vermin is to be expected in henhouse operations, but this is no excuse for the apparent level of infestation at Wright County Egg. FURTHER NOTE: the FDA’s Egg Rule sets forth specific measures to take for control of vermin infestation.
- Garcias, a former Dominican employee at Wright County Egg who worked there for a decade before the outbreak said he always knew when the doors to the hen houses were open because ammonia wafted into his building and made his eyes water. According to the Des Moines Register article, "News of the salmonella outbreak did not come as a shock, he said. "I wasn’t surprised, because they’re not careful," he said through an interpreter. "They could do more."
- Hundreds of mice killed by poison can fill about 50 cage traps in each hen house several times a week, he said. About four months ago, he said he noticed workers emptying the cages once a week or less. "Lately, there have been a lot of mice," another worker said through an interpreter. "It’s been kind of ignored. But now it’s better. Ever since it came out that there was disease, they started working on it."
- Current workers described a daily routine that starts at 6:30 a.m. by checking the chicken’s drinking water. They then toss dead chickens into bins about as tall as their chests. Workers estimate they find as many as 20 dead chickens per hen house daily, though that number can triple on hot summer days. Sometimes days go by before a decomposing chicken is discovered, the workers said. Once a week, workers said they inspect the cages with flashlights to look for chickens they may have missed. Trampel, the ISU poultry veterinarian, said a 0.1 percent mortality rate for caged laying hens is typical. Dead chickens should be picked up every day, he said. Several former employees said deceased chickens sometimes went undiscovered for a week or more. "They’d leave them there for weeks," Jorge Santiago said through an interpreter.
A Mexican woman who quit in January called the conditions inside the hen houses "incredible." "I don’t understand how the government allowed them to operate like this," she said through an interpreter. We are increasingly wondering the same thing. Here are some more findings released earlier.