The Chickens Churned Out Eggs. Then Came the Gas

Egg farmer Kerry Mergen says 61K chickens were euthanized due to drop in demand due to virus
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2020 11:00 AM CDT
Farmer: Coronavirus Indirectly Killed 61K Chickens
Chickens are fed at the Quill's End Farm in Penobscot, Maine, in this April 15, 2016, file photo.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

A Minnesota contract egg farmer says his livelihood has been erased along with 61,000 chickens owing to a drop in demand triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Kerry Mergen and his wife, Barb, produced 4,500 dozen eggs per day, which were turned into fluid egg and sent to food service companies across North America, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. They received about $700 daily from Daybreak Foods, which owned the chickens and covered the cost of feed. But as demand suddenly dropped, Daybreak chose to end its contract with the Mergens months early. And on April 9, a crew arrived at the farm near Albany. Workers culled the still productive flock using carbon dioxide, then hauled away the carcasses to be turned into dog food.

"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," says Mergen, who adds he doesn't qualify for unemployment insurance and is on a waitlist for federal aid. "When they euthanized the birds, that was our paycheck euthanized," says Barb. She notes the couple would need a large loan to buy their own chickens and more money to pay for equipment to grade eggs for the retail market. There, demand for eggs is rising, along with prices, per the Wall Street Journal. Demand for fluid egg, however, is declining along with food-service orders—a fact Cargill cited last week in temporarily shutting its fluid egg plant in Big Lake, Minn., where many of the Mergens' eggs were sent. (More coronavirus stories.)

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