Tag Archives: Chicken

The Department of Justice is seeking information regarding price-fixing of chickens by processors. Meat industry publication Meatingplace reports the Department of Justice has issued a grand jury subpoena to plaintiffs in a class action price-fixing lawsuit against the chicken industry.

The subpoena requests information produced in the discovery process by all parties in the case. Tyson Foods, in a regulatory filing, said it was notified of the request on April 26 by the plaintiffs. Decisions on class certification and summary judgment motions likely to be filed by defendants are not expected before the second half of 2020, under the scheduling order currently governing the case.

A food distributor in 2016 filed the class action lawsuit alleging Tyson and other poultry processors conspired to “fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize” prices for broiler chickens. Subsequent lawsuits of similar nature were filed, prompting the court to consolidate the complaints into three classes, including direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and consumers, and commercial indirect purchasers.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa egg farm that killed millions of chickens because of a 2015 bird flu outbreak is suing companies hired by the federal government to disinfect barns.

Sunrise Farms says the chlorine dioxide gas and heat treatments used to kill the virus destroyed barn equipment, electrical wiring, production equipment and water lines. The company also says the structural integrity of its barns was diminished.

Max Barnett, the CEO of Sunrise Farms’ parent company, South Dakota-based Sonstegard Foods, said he couldn’t comment on a pending court case.

The farm is near the northwest Iowa town of Harris, about 225 miles northwest of Des Moines. It includes a feed mill, 25 layer barns, two manure barns and a processing plant. The barns housed 4 million egg-laying hens, and two other buildings had 500,000 young hens being raised to become layers.

The farm confirmed on April 19, 2015, that its birds had the deadly strain of H5N2 bird flu. Officials from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service division arrived within days and took over the cleanup and disinfection process, hiring several companies to complete euthanizing birds and disinfecting barns to prevent the spread of the virus.

In the 2015 U.S. bird flu outbreak, more than 50 million chickens and turkeys died or were destroyed. That comprises about 12 percent of hens that produce eggs people eat and 8 percent of the inventory of turkeys grown for meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About 87 percent of bird losses occurred in Iowa, the nation’s leading egg producer, and Minnesota, the top turkey grower. Other cases were reported in Nebraska, Wisconsin and South Dakota.

The heat treatment used at some of Sunrise Farms barns was designed to raise the temperature to 120 degrees (49 degrees Celsius) for a period of seven days. In other barns the government officials ordered the use of chlorine dioxide, a chemical known to kill the flu virus.

The barns were declared free of virus and eligible for restocking on Sept. 16, 2015, but court documents say the treatments destroyed equipment, electrical wiring and water lines, and left the barns’ structural integrity diminished. Sunrise Farms claims its property damage required extensive repairs.

The company filed the lawsuit in March 2018 in federal court in Iowa, seeking to be repaid for the cost of repairs, interest, late charges and the cost of the lawsuit.

It claims negligence for causing significant property damage and breach of contract, saying the contracted companies “failed to adequately perform the contract obligations.”

The lawsuit names Clean Harbors Environmental Services of Norwell, Massachusetts, and other companies based in Georgia and New York.

In court documents, Clean Harbors, which applied the chlorine dioxide gas treatment, denied responsibility for the damage and asked that the lawsuit be dismissed. The company said Sunrise Farms “failed to adequately and properly mitigate its damages.”

Clean Harbors is suing six other companies that were contracted to assist in the operation. One of those companies is suing seven other companies with which it had contracted.

A lawyer representing Clean Harbors didn’t respond to a message.

The lawsuit is set for trial on Jan. 27, 2020, in Sioux City.

Another major egg producer with barns in Iowa and other states also used the heat treatment for disinfection after the bird flu and said he saw some damage but determined the equipment was older and needed to be replaced anyway.

Marcus Rust, CEO of Rose Acre Farms, the nation’s second-largest egg producer, said his company was satisfied with its outcome.

Rust said he’d heard about the problems at Sunrise Farms and was uneasy but determined that the effectiveness of the gas treatment was better than any other alternative.

“Did we have zero problems? No. But has it been acceptable? Yes. We were apprehensive and maybe we watched it a lot closer because of all the warnings,” he said.

Top poultry experts from the state of California (CDFA), academia (UC Davis) and private industry (Foster Farms) – along with nearly 100 urban farmers and backyard poultry owners – gathered in Dublin, California, to discuss ways to prevent further spread of the highly contagious Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND). Although only a single case was recently diagnosed in Northern California’s Alameda County and is no threat to human health, more than 1.1 million birds have been lost to VND in Southern California since May 2018, with additional casesconfirmed just this past week. The poultry experts are urging preventative action to limit any further spread of this deadly avian disease. Spread of VND to California’s Central Valley could be catastrophic to local economies, farming communities and backyard poultry enthusiasts.

California is home to more than 100,000 backyard chicken flocks, and Northern California houses 95% of the state’s commercial poultry industry. Effects of this disease are equally devastating to backyard poultry and commercial flocks and pose a risk to the food supply, state economy and many Northern California communities that depend on poultry and egg production.

The VND outbreak has prompted strict quarantines across Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties and $45 million in emergency funding from the USDA. In the first week of April, VND was detected in Arizona and is believed to be linked to the current California outbreak. The last major California VND outbreak in 2002/2003 cost nearly $170 million to eradicate. Nearly four million birds were depopulated.

Dr. Annette Jones, California’s State Veterinarian, reinforced the importance of a collaborative approach, increased vigilance and biosecurity in stopping spread of Virulent Newcastle Disease. “In partnership with Foster Farms and the California Poultry Federation, we are bringing together some of the best minds in the poultry industry to provide the latest information to owners and give them useful tools and tips to safeguard birds and report concerns,” said Jones, who urges people to call the Sick Bird Hotline at 866-922-BIRD (2473).

“Although Foster Farms flocks have not been affected, our commitment as veterinarians is to ensure that all birds are protected,” said Robert O’Connor, DVM of Foster Farms, one of the workshop speakers. “That is why, along with the California Department of Food & Agriculture, the California Poultry Federation and UC Davis, we are sharing our knowledge and experience with backyard poultry enthusiasts. We all have a part to play in keeping our flocks safe and containing this deadly avian disease.”

Foster Farms, the family owned poultry company based in Livingston, Calif., and the California Poultry Federation (CPF) hosted the workshop to increase public awareness and provide access to critical resources. The seminar covered standard biosecurity measures, signs and symptoms of VND, and resources available to backyard poultry owners should birds become sick. Organizers issued an infographic outlining steps to prevent VND and encouraged participants to share the information on social media. Additional resources include California Department of Food and AgricultureUSDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and California Poultry Federationwebsites.

The workshop featured State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones; Foster Farms’ veterinarians and biosecurity experts Dr. Robert O’Connor and Dr. Charles Corsiglia; poultry science specialist Dr. Maurice Pitesky and veterinarian pathologist Dr. Asli Mete from University of California, Davis and California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory.