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At Least 240,000 Chickens Are Killed in Fire at Florida Egg Farm

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At least 240,000 chickens were killed early Thursday when a fire swept through two tightly packed barns in Florida owned by one of the largest distributors of shell eggs in the country.

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 has a total of four barns.

The fire was the latest in a spate of barn fires across the United States that have brought control over animal rights groups.

Representatives from Cal-Maine Foods, based in Jackson, Miss., Did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday night.

Max Bowman, chief financial officer and vice president of the company, told the Tampa Bay Times that 2 to 3 percent of the company’s pullets were lost in the fire and production was not expected to be disrupted.

“We are fully insured,” Mr Bowman told the newspaper.

On the company’s website, Cal-Maine Foods estimated that it accounts for 19 percent of shell eggs consumed in the United States. Egglands Best and Land O ‘Lakes are made and processed at Cal-Maine Foods factories, the company website states.

Cal-Maine Foods was previously criticized by animal welfare groups about the conditions in its facilities.

In response to criticism, Mr. Bowman told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that the company had followed all government and industry guidelines regarding clearances on its farms.

“Cal-Maine is a large public company and we strive to get things right,” said Bowman.

Earlier this week, the Animal Welfare Institute estimated that more than 1.6 million farm animals had died in barn fires this year, of which 1.3 million were cage-free chickens.

“It is totally unacceptable for the industry to tolerate large numbers of animals burning to death when effective fire prevention and suppression strategies are in place,” said Dena Jones, the group’s program director for farm animals, in a statement two days before the fire Florida.

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