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Posted by on Aug 31, 2010 in Ethics, FDA, Infectious diseases

Manure Piled High at DeCosters’ Hen Houses

Manure Piled High at DeCosters’ Hen Houses


Released yesterday, the FDA’s inspection report of facilities at Wright Company and Quality Egg, ground zero for the recent egg-borne salmonella outbreak, is either an outing of a filthy outlier in the business of mass agriculture or a revelation of the filthy business of mass agriculture. How much chicken shit is acceptable in and around hen houses is virtually unknowable for the 99% of Americans who don’t farm. But 4-to-8-feet piles seem excessive.

According to the FDA, the laying facilities in north-central Iowa, managed by Austin “Jack” DeCoster‘s son, Peter, were plagued with the following:

  • Massive and escalating amounts of chicken excrement.

Inspectors reported that “outside access to the manure pits…had been pushed out by the weight of the manure, leaving open access to wildlife or domesticated animals.” Manure, aka “dark liquid,” was also observed to be seeping through the concrete foundation of the outside of the laying houses. Uncaged birds were seen using the piled-up manure to access laying areas.

  • Standing water near manure pits.
  • Live rodents, namely mice, who evidently had free access into and out of the laying houses.
  • And lots and lots of flies and maggots. “The live flies were on and around egg belts, feed, shell eggs and walkways in different sections of each egg laying area,” the inspectors wrote. “In addition, live and dead maggots too numerous to count were observed on the manure pit floor…”

Most important, perhaps, was the fact that the FDA found evidence of Salmonella enteritidis in multiple locations, including in manure and chicken feed.

The FDA’s inspection took place from August 12 to August 30, longer than 2 weeks. Given the duration of the inspection (and the possibility that facility managers knew that the FDA was coming), it seems that officers at Wright County and Quality Egg actually had the opportunity to clean up their facilities. If so, the conditions of these businesses may have been, in reality, considerably worse.

bmartin (1127 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.