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Michigan egg producer lays off 400 employees as bird flu spreads

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(CBS DETROIT) — Michigan egg producer Herbuck's Poultry Ranch is laying off about 400 employees due to the spread of avian influenza.

In a letter to the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, chief human resources officer Stephanie Kempa said the layoffs are primarily temporary; however, some are permanent. Positions include accounting, coordinator, clerk, feed mill, human resources, manager, sanitation and supervisor.

Layoffs began on Wednesday at five locations.

Kempa said the virus impacted the company's hen population at some farms in Ionia County.

"The company plans to rehire many positions as hen replenishing and egg production increases," Kempa said in the letter.

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the virus can spread through contact with infected poultry, equipment and a caretaker's clothes and shoes.

Health officials say the risk of the virus for humans remains low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was detected in one person this year after being exposed to infected dairy cows. The last human case was reported in 2022.

Earlier this month, MDARD issued guidance to help producers reduce the spread. The order went into effect on May 8.

Under the order, all Michigan dairy farms and poultry operations must implement the following:

  • Designate a biosecurity manager
  • Designate a line of separation to represent the perimeter of a secure area, limiting access points
  • Establish cleaning and disinfection practices and procedures at those access points for both vehicles and individuals, including deliveries of feed and other supplies, and training for employees
  • Establish a logbook maintaining a record of all vehicles and of individuals who have gotten out of vehicles and crossed those access points, to be retained and made available for examination upon request by MDARD.  
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