At least 240,000 chickens were killed early Thursday when a fire swept through two densely packed barns in Florida owned by one of the nation’s largest shell egg distributors, authorities said.
The blaze was reported around 1 a.m. by farm workers at the Cal-Maine Foods facility in Dade City, Fla., Shawn Whited, Pasco County Fire Rescue’s operations division chief, said in a statement. interview.
The two barns that were destroyed housed two large barns, each of which was filled with more than 60,000 young hens, called pullets, which had yet to start laying eggs, officials said. The farm is in a rural part of the county – about 40 miles northeast of Tampa – that does not have fire hydrants.
“So we had to bring in tankers,” said Chief Whited.
The cause of the blaze was under investigation by the state fire marshal, according to Chief Whited, who said the financial loss was estimated at $ 1 million. The farm – one of dozens of facilities that Jackson, Mississippi-based Cal-Maine Foods operates across the country – has four barns in total.
The blaze was the latest in a series of barn fires across the United States that caught the attention of animal welfare groups, which had previously criticized Cal-Maine over conditions at its facilities.
Max Bowman, chief financial officer and vice president of Cal-Maine , said in an interview Thursday night that 2-3% of the company’s pullets were lost in the fire and it should not disrupt production .
“Our main assets are these pullets and these hens,” Bowman said. “We are taking all reasonable steps to take care of it. It is our regret to have lost these birds.
Mr Bowman said the pullets lack the body mass of fully grown chickens and need to be kept warm, which may have contributed to the fire.
“It usually comes down to some sort of heating problem or electrical problem,” he says.
On the company’s website, Cal-Maine Foods estimated it made up 19 percent of shell eggs consumed in the United States. Eggland’s Best and Land O ‘Lakes are produced and processed at Cal-Maine Foods’ facilities, the company’s website says.