Farmer says his 61,000 chickens were euthanized as demand for eggs during pandemic drops

A Minnesota contract egg farmer said 61,000 of his chickens were euthanized amid falling demand for eggs.

Closures of schools, restaurants and caterers has trickled down to farming, affecting egg producers as well as demand for milk and ripe lettuce. Kerry Mergen, who works near Albany Minn., told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Daybreak Foods, which owned and paid to feed the chickens, made the decision after a fluid egg plant in Big Lake temporarily shut down last week and laid off 300 workers.

Mergen told the Star-Tribune a crew of about 15 workers arrived in the early hours of April 9 with carbon dioxide to euthanize the birds.

“They come in with carts, put them all in carts, wheel them up to the end, put a hose in that cart and gas them, then dump them over the edge into a conveyor and convey them up into semis and the semis haul them out,” he said.

“I was in there for quite a while and the longer I was there the more disgusted and disappointed I was knowing that I’m not going to see anything put back in my checkbook again, so after a while I just simply left,” he added.

“It is important to note that food-service orders have not stopped, but with the decline in food-service orders, Cargill and its egg suppliers are working diligently to rebalance supply to match these consumer and customer shifts,” Cargill said in a statement, according to the newspaper.

Mergen said four other egg farms saw chickens euthanized in the state in recent weeks, saying the other four were larger than his. An official at the state Board of Animal Health told the newspaper livestock producers are not required to report euthanizing animals in large numbers.

Mergen’s wife Barb, a food service worker in St. Cloud, said the income represented by the chickens would hurt more than the killings.

“Don’t sugarcoat it. It is what it is,” she told the Star-Tribune. “It’s painless for the birds. I don’t have a thing against that, but it’s just that someone can come in so quickly and when they euthanized the birds, that was our paycheck euthanized.”

The Hill has reached out to Daybreak for comment.

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