In the midst of the massive US FDA recall of more than 500 million eggs due to salmonella contamination, federal officials say that there is a common thread running through the problem: DeCoster Farms. DeCoster Farms is one of the top ten egg producers in the country and is no stranger to complaints about health, safety, and human and animal rights violations, including sexual harassment and rape.
The violations of Quality Eggs/DeCoster Farms, owned by Austin “Jack” DeCoster of Iowa, span two decades. Quality Eggs/DeCoster Farms supplies young hens and feed to Wright County Eggs and Hillandale Farms, both of which are part of the recent extensive recall. The Washington Post states that DeCoster Farms has repeatedly paid fines and settled complaints over health and safety violations and allegations ranging from maintaining a “sexually hostile work environment” to abusing the hens that lay the eggs.
According to the Des Moines Register, Jack DeCoster and DeCoster Farms have a long record of environmental problems and violations of immigration laws and worker rights.
In 2002, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that a $1,525,000 settlement was reached in an employment discrimination lawsuit against DeCoster Farms on behalf of female workers, many of Mexican and Hispanic origins, who alleged they were subjected to sexual harassment (including rape), abuse, and retaliation by supervisors at DeCoster’s Wright County, Iowa, plants.
The list of allegations continues to grow and includes animal cruelty (hens suffocated in garbage cans, twirled by their necks, kicked into manure pits to drown, and hanged by their feet over conveyer belts), the unpaid overtime of 3,000 employees, poor housing conditions for workers – some of whom were undocumented workers at the time – and more threats of retaliation.