As I showed in a recent post, DeCoster stands at the nexus of a tangle of companies that, combined, produce more eggs than any single entity. Over the weekend, one of those companies, Ohio Fresh Egg, announced another “voluntary recall.” According to an FDA notice issued late Friday, the company recently “had a routine environmental study sample which tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis.”
As a result, Mississippi-based Cal-Maine Eggs — putatively the nation’s largest egg producer — had to recall 24,000 dozen eggs (about 300,000) it had bought from Ohio Fresh and distributed in eight states (Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas).
Thus even though his infamous Iowa-based Wright County Egg/Quality Egg facilities remain banned from selling fresh eggs to the public, DeCoster-related companies are still churning out plenty of eggs that ends up on supermarket shelves and in people’s kitchens. And the chick magnate’s long history of producing salmonella-tainted eggs, which dates to 1987, now has yet another chapter.
Moreover, the latest episode underlines a weird thing about the egg business exposed by the August recall: that the few large companies that dominate the industry regularly collude, selling each others’ eggs under a dizzying variety of brand names. In this latest recall, eggs produced by Ohio Fresh’s hen factories got distributed by Cal-Maine and sold under no fewer than three rustic-sounding brand names: Sunny Meadow, Springfield Farms, and James Farm. During the August salmonella outbreak, Cal-Maine and its myriad brands had to recall 800,000 eggs it had bought and distributed from DeCoster’s factories.
Don’t antitrust authorities care that these enormous entities, supposedly competitors, are selling and marketing each others’ dodgy eggs under dozens of brands clearly designed to fool the public into thinking they have access to choice and variety?
The main takeaway from this episode can’t be repeated enough: DeCoster, with his long history of abuses of labor, the environment, animals, and public health, is still very much involved in producing food that reaches millions of Americans’ tables daily. So far, all DeCoster has gotten for his misdeeds in the August recall is a stern letter from the FDA and a ban on selling fresh eggs for one Iowa operation. Even as millions of their eggs were being recalled, Wright County Egg and Hillandale never stopped selling newly laid, equally salmonella-risky eggs: They just send them to pasteurization facilities to be sanitized for use in things like cake mixes.
And in addition to the DeCoster-owned Ohio and Maine egg operations, DeCoster also still owns industrial-hog operations in Iowa. Anyone up for an industrial pork chop?
Are the federal agencies that oversee the food and agriculture industries so compromised and underfunded they literally aren’t interested in stopping this man from striking yet again?