A massive fire at an egg farm in Wright County, Minnesota, burned down a barn housing tens of thousands of chickens. This means tens of thousands of panicked hens remained trapped in tiny cages as they were engulfed by flames. In total, around 200,000 lives were lost. Yet according to a farm spokesperson, “no one was injured.”
The fire took place at Forsman Farms—a fourth-generation egg farm that supplies some of the nation’s largest retailers with more than three million eggs each day. Witnesses noticed enormous flames rising into the sky around 10 p.m. on a Saturday night and immediately called 911. “It was unbelievable how quick it grew,” one witness said. “It was insane. It was the whole sky.”
While investigations into the cause of the fire are underway, barn fires at commercial egg farms are not uncommon. Last year, a fire at Hickman’s Egg Farm—the largest egg producer in Arizona—claimed the lives of 165,000 hens. The year before, at least 250,000 chickens were killed when two “densely packed” barns caught fire at a Florida farm owned by Cal-Maine Foods—one of the nation’s largest egg distributors. That same year, nearly half a million chickens perished in a fire at a Michael Foods-operated egg factory farm in Nebraska, which burned down 20 barns.
When these fires happen, companies often highlight their financial losses or focus on whether humans were injured. The true victims—the animals burned to death in the overcrowded farms—are rarely the focus. This was the case with the recent Forsman Farms fire, where a spokesperson spared only one sentence for the chickens:
Overnight, a fire destroyed one of our barns at our Howard Lake farm. No one was injured and we are grateful that first responders were quickly on scene to put out the fire. Unfortunately, chickens were lost because of the fire. We are evaluating the extent of the damage—which appears to be confined to a single structure—as well as investigating the cause of the fire.
These fires—and the industry’s response to them—once again demonstrate how animals trapped in the agriculture industry are treated as commodities. Chickens are incredible animals. They pass down knowledge from generation to generation, can recognize dozens of individuals, and even dream! They deserve so much more than a miserable life in an egg farm.