This problem extends beyond the egg industry and is typical of nearly every sector of food and agriculture.
by Jill Richardson / AlterNet / August 25, 2010 |
The recent recall of 500 million eggs due to salmonella should surprise no one.
The official term agribusiness will use to refer to Austin “Jack” DeCoster, the owner of the farm that produced the tainted eggs, is “bad apple.” That’s what they call anyone who gets caught for outrageous ethical breaches in agriculture. Farmers who are caught abusing their animals and workers, committing flagrant environmental crimes, and selling record amounts of tainted food are all “bad apples.” The implication is that everyone else, those who haven’t made front-page headlines for their bad behavior, would never dream of doing such a thing on their farms.
The State of Iowa’s term for DeCoster is “habitual violator.” He earned the title a decade ago after repeatedly flooding Iowa’s waterways with massive amounts of hog manure. In Iowa, habitual violators of water quality laws are fined up to $25,000 per day per violation (compared to the normal $5,000 per day per violation) and are not allowed to build or expand any “animal feeding operation structures.” Apparently the increased fines weren’t much of a deterrent for DeCoster.
DeCoster’s violations of the law began long before he got to Iowa. By 1996, he had built his egg operation in Maine to one with five million hens producing 23 million eggs per week. And he had earned the attention of Clinton’s Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, who said that DeCoster’s workers were treated like “animals.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined DeCoster $3.6 million after finding workers “handling manure and dead chickens with their bare hands, and living amid rats and cockroaches in the company’s trailer park.”
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