Stakeholders Fight for Public Opinion after Egg Recall

US - State poultry association and the Humane Society are locked in battle for public opinion after the latest Iowa egg recall.
calendar icon 31 August 2010
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The voluntary recall of more than half a billion Iowa eggs has advocacy groups on both sides of the issue ready to make their case in the court of public sentiment, reports Iowa Independent.

The Iowa Poultry Association and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have not been on the same side of any issue for quite some time. In fact, of the five press releases generated by the Iowa Poultry Association since April, three have been in response to HSUS allegations. The massive recall of Iowa eggs tainted with Salmonella, however, have both sides flexing their marketing arms in appeals to the public.

The Iowa Poultry Association released a statement last week intended to acknowledge the current situation regarding eggs recalled by Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, but also to assure consumers that poultry and egg producers work to provide safe, wholesome food. The statement reads, in part:

Salmonella in eggs typically is a rare occurrence. During the 92-day recall notice (Julian dates 136-228) approximately 17.5 billion were produced by farms around the country. With the recall of approximately 550 million eggs, this represents approximately 3 percent of the total quantity of eggs produced during that three-month period. However, according to the Salmonella Risk Assessment, the risk associated with finding even one contaminated egg is 1 in 20,000 eggs.

The Iowa Poultry Association will continue to monitor developments. We will update our web site with further information as the need arises.

Not surprisingly, the HSUS is not as forgiving of the industry, and launched a new ad campaign on 27 August in the hometown newspapers of egg producers implemented in the recall – from Iowa to California to Pennsylvania. The ad buy accuses egg producers of 'playing Russian roulette with Americans' health' for its use of a cages that the group alleges increase the risk of Salmonella.

"Each year, the US egg industry is responsible for an epidemic of egg-borne Salmonella," said Michael Greger, M.D., director of public health and animal agriculture for HSUS. "The egg industry has a responsibility to switch to cage-free housing systems to help protect the public and reduce animal cruelty."

The group provides a link to nine separate studies published in the past year that showed increased Salmonella rates associated with operations that confine hens in cages:
  • 2010: 7.77 times greater odds of Salmonella in operations caging hens
  • 2009: Significantly more risk of Salmonella in caged flocks
  • 2008: 7.88 to 21.52 times greater odds of Salmonella in operations caging hens
  • 2008: More than twice the prevalence of Salmonella in operations caging hens
  • 2008: 59 per cent greater prevalence of Salmonella (though not statistically significant)
  • 2007: Up to 25 times greater odds of Salmonella in operations caging hens
  • 2007: 3.7 times greater prevalence of Salmonella in operations caging hens
  • 2006: More than twice the prevalence of Salmonella in operations caging hens
  • 2005: 1.9 to 6.7 times greater risk of Salmonella in typical cage operations

More than 90 per cent of commercial egg producers in the US confine their laying hens in cages, including the two Iowa producers involved in the voluntary recall. It is a practice that the industry has touted as being the most economically feasible for producers and the best choice for care of laying hens. When California voters considered a ballot proposition that would have limited caging of laying hens, a small Galt real estate company with ties to the DeCoster family that also has interest in the two Iowa egg producers undergoing the recall, invested at least $100,000 in an attempt to defeat the measure.

According to the Iowa Egg Council, an advocacy group for the local industry, Iowa has more than 80 egg producers, who have 57 million hens that produce roughly 14.25 billion eggs each year. This makes Iowa, according to federal data, the top egg producing state in the nation, concludes the Iowa Independent report.

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