The recent outbreak of Salmonella linked to poor safety practices at a few massive egg farms in Iowa has pulled back the curtain on some of the more creepy aspects of industrial agriculture in the U.S.
Grist published an investigative report on September 13th that began to uncover a tangled web of ownership behind the offending farms with one man at its center: Austin “Jack” DeCoster. DeCoster has seemingly gone to great lenghts to obfuscate his status as possibly the largest producer of eggs in the U.S., all while habitually violating health, safety, labor and environmental regulations in numerous states for decades.
The New York Times intensified the spotlight with a similar piece a week later, in which they tie DeCosta’s egg operations to multiple serious salmonella outbreaks nationwide over the past thirty years.
Finally, Mr. DeCosta was summoned to testify before congress on Wednesday, where he claimed that he felt just awful about the whole thing and that the most recent outbreak was a result of his company getting sort of big before “ we stopped acting like we were small.”
The Times, reporting on the testimony, wrote that that:
“The FDA found that the barns of the egg producers were infested with flies, maggots and rodents, and had overflowing manure pits. Records unearthed by Congressional investigators showed that tests of Wright County Egg barns had shown the presence of toxic salmonella bacteria for years before the outbreak…Despite such conditions, Peter DeCoster, Austin DeCoster’s son and the chief operating officer of Wright County Egg, told the panel that the most likely source of the contamination was a separate company that supplied ingredients for chicken feed, a contention disputed by federal food officials. He said that some of the filthy conditions documented by the F.D.A. were standard practice in the industry.”
Oh, and did we mention that a new food safety bill was blocked in the Senate yesterday? Need any more incentive to know who’s producing your food and how they’re producing it?
Happily, you can find REAL farm-fresh eggs and buy them directly from the local farmers who produce them at many greenmarkets right here in Brooklyn. Liz Carollo and David Sherman of NYC Greenmarkets gave us the scoop on the good eggs at our Brooklyn greenmarkets each week. Thanks guys!
Greenpoint: Garden of Eve, Ronnybrook Farm
Carroll Gardens: Tello’s Green Farm, Fishkill Farm, Grazin’ Angus Acres, Lani’s Farm
Brooklyn Borough Hall: Fishkill Farm, Millport Dairy, Rexcroft Farm
Grand Army Plaza: Flying Pigs Farm, Lynnhaven, Arcadian Pastures, Wood Homestead, Tello’s Green Farm
Windsor Terrace: Williams Fruit Farm
Ft. Greene: Rexcroft Farm, Tello’s Green Farm
Cortelyou: Knoll Krest Farm, Amantai Farm
For those looking for super-local eggs, BK Farmyards has a CSA that provides eggs from chickens living right here in Brooklyn. The csa season is ending in a few weeks, but you can learn more here.