At least 240,000 chickens were killed early Thursday when a fire swept through two tightly packed barns in Florida that belonged to one of the country’s largest egg traders, authorities said.
The fire was reported by farm workers at the Cal-Maine Foods facility in Dade City, Florida around 1 a.m., Shawn Whited, chief of operations for Pasco County Fire Rescue, said in an interview.
In both barns destroyed there were two large pens, each filled with more than 60,000 young chickens, known as pullets, that had not yet started laying eggs. The farm is in a rural part of the county – about 40 miles northeast of Tampa – with no hydrants.
“So we had to bring tankers,” said Chief Whited.
The cause of the fire was investigated by the state firefighter, who said the financial loss was estimated at $ 1 million, according to Chief Whited. The farm – one of dozens of facilities that Cal-Maine Foods in Jackson, Miss., Operates across the country – has four barns in total.
The fire was the latest in a spate of barn fires in the United States that sparked control over animal rights groups who had previously criticized Cal-Maine Foods about conditions at their facilities.
Max Bowman, the chief financial officer and vice president of Cal-Maine Foods, said in an interview on Thursday evening that 2 to 3 percent of the company’s pullets were lost to the fire and production disruption was not expected.
“Our core assets are these pullets and chickens,” said Bowman. “We are taking all reasonable steps to take care of them. We regret that we lost these birds. “
Mr Bowman said pullets do not have the body mass of fully developed chickens and need to be kept warm, which may have contributed to the fire.
“It usually comes down to some kind of heating problem or electrical problem,” he said.
On the company’s website, Cal-Maine Foods estimated that 19 percent of what is known as shell eggs, as opposed to powdered eggs, are consumed in the United States. Egglands Best and Land O ‘Lakes are made and processed at Cal-Maine Foods factories, the company website states.