Those Half Billion Salmonella Eggs Came from Very Nasty Places

Two Iowa farms behind the massive salmonella egg recall have been investigated by federal officials, and what they found is pretty gross: Eight-foot tall piles of manure as well as rodents, maggots, and wild animals mingling with hens. And more!

The Food and Drug Administration, while describing disgusting conditions at the two farms — Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa Inc. — were careful to tell reporters that "clearly the observations here reflect significant deviations from what's expected." In other words, "we're not used to seeing massive piles of festering shit that double as a playground for wild animals, maggots and chickens, while doing routine farm inspections." About half a billion eggs were recalled around the country after some 1,500 people became ill with symptoms of salmonella.

Inspectors were looking at Wright County Egg the day before the recall on August 12 and wrapped up on Aug. 30. Here's what they found, from the Los Angeles Times:

• Barns with dozens of holes chewed by rodents that mice, insects and wild birds used to enter and live inside the barns;

• Flies on and around the egg belts and hen feeders;

• Manure built up in 4- to 8-foot-tall piles in pits below the hen houses, in such quantities that it pushed pit doors open, allowing rodents and other wild animals access to hen houses;

• Dozens of hens, which had escaped their cages, roaming freely, tracking manure from the pit to other caged parts of the barns;

• Hen houses with significant structural damage and improper air ventilation systems.

The FDA Inspectors also found flies and maggots "too numerous to count" inside the facilities. But really, you shouldn't worry because government regulations keep these farms in line, so something like this is unlikely to happen ever again, right?

Iowa, which has 54 million laying hens, produces far more eggs than any other state, according to UC Riverside poultry specialist Don Bell. (The next two largest states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, have only 50 million hens combined.)

Iowa has far fewer rules regarding regular inspections of either farm or feed operations. That, along with cheaper land, feed and energy costs, explains why much of the nation's cheapest eggs are being produced in the Hawkeye State, food safety experts and industry critics say.

[Image via Getty]