Timeline of Shame: Decades of DeCoster Egg Factory Violations

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Finally, what everyone knows: In August 2010, 550 million eggs linked to two DeCoster-owned facilities in Iowa were recalled. The details released by the FDA were eerily familiar: unsafe electrical conditions, improperly kept manure, infestations of mice and maggots and flies, sick hens. The Iowa barns, largely self-policed, look exactly like the Turner barns before Maine litigation tightened oversight. DeCoster's string of misdoings in other states—environmental violations, stunning management abuses, and dangerous conditions for workers and animals—show that in his 1996 OSHA ruling, the former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was prophetic when he denounced DeCoster as a "habitual violator."

No one I spoke with in Maine expressed surprise that the DeCoster was finally named as the culprit in this year's outbreak. The man who is perhaps the country's largest egg producer has been allowed to menace the country like a robber baron, holding residents in perpetual fear and discomfort while he does exactly as he pleases. "He goes along for a little while, and then he'll slip back into past practices," one resident who did not wish to be named in this article told me. We can only wait to see if now, after a national outrage, there will be a next time and a time after that.

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Joe Fassler is a writer based in Brooklyn. His fiction has appeared in The Boston Review, and he regularly interviews authors for The Lit Show. In 2011, his reporting for TheAtlantic.com was a finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award in Journalism.

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