Michigan’s Largest Egg Producer Lays off 400 Employees Because of Ongoing Bird Flu Outbreak

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: May 17, 2024

Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, Michigan’s largest egg producer and a company that brings in $1 billion annually, has announced they are laying off about 400 employees because their facilities have been hit with a bird flu outbreak.

Herbruck’s announcement comes as many egg producers and cattle farmers struggle to deal with this latest bird flu outbreak, which has quickly infected many of their animals.

Bird Flu Outbreak at Herbruck’s Ranches

Last month, Herbruck’s detected the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in one of its facilities near Saranac. Quickly, the company made efforts to try to stop this bird flu from spreading into a full-blown outbreak.

A bunch of chickens walking around a farm outside in the daytime.

Source: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

This led to various measures being conducted to try to stop the spread of the virus. Birds no longer were taken in or out of the facility as they tried to contain the outbreak.

Affected Facilities

Now, however, it appears that Herbruck’s is dealing with an outbreak at more than one of its facilities. Many of their birds and hens have unfortunately been infected with this virus.

A close-up of many brown eggs in a carton.

Source: Erol Ahmed/Unsplash

This has led to operations at various facilities being impacted as the company attempts to deal with this deadly avian influenza.

Herbruck’s Lays off Employees

Now, we’re seeing just how Herbruck’s has had to deal with this ongoing bird flu outbreak. Recently, the company filed a notice with Michigan, where their infected facilities are located.

Three chickens walking in green grass outside in the daytime.

Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

According to this notice, Herbruck’s has plans to lay off about 400 of its employees at five different farms. Three of these farms are located in Saranac, while two are in Lake Odessa.

Positions Impacted

So far, it appears this decision to lay off employees will impact a variety of different workers at Herbruck’s.

Many brown chickens standing in a doorway in the sunlight.

Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Herbruck’s notice filed with the state explained that layoffs would affect salaried employees, as well as hourly ones. Contractors may also be laid off.

Why Herbruck’s Is Laying off Employees

In this notice, Herbruck’s also gave some insight into why they have decided to lay off hundreds of their employees.

Many brown chickens behind a cage.

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The egg producer stated that they have to do this because of the bird flu outbreak many of their farms and facilities are having to deal with at the moment.


Impacted Facilities Have No Work

Herbruck’s CEO Greg Herbruck also released a statement about this decision to lay off many of their employees. According to Herbruck, there is no work available at the facilities where bird flu has spread.

A close-up of brown chickens eating food off the ground.

Source: Tim Cooper/Unsplash

However, Herbruck also stated that the egg producer already has plans to rehire many of the workers that they are currently having to lay off — but only once the company is able to recover from this ongoing outbreak.


A Difficult Decision

In Herbruck’s statement, the CEO explained that he understands this difficult decision will affect his employees and their families greatly.

A close-up of many different colored eggs.

Source: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

Herbruck stated, “We expect this to largely be temporary, as we plan to rehire many positions as we work to repopulate our facilities and continue egg production as safely and quickly as possible. We understand this is a stressful situation for our team members, and we are working with our state partners to provide them with resources, answer questions, and assist in their individual family situations.”


Trying To Stop the Bird Flu

Many people who live near Herbruck’s Saranac farms have stated that they’ve seen a whole lot of activity in the area as the company strives to deal with this bird flu outbreak.

Many chickens walking on green grass by a fence.

Source: Jan Kraus/Unsplash

According to these neighbors, they’ve seen many workers in hazmat suits. They’ve also noticed a very noticeable smell coming from the facility, which Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tom Boring believes has to do with bird composting.


A Loss in Profits?

Already, many analysts are wondering if this ongoing bird flu problem is going to make the price of eggs skyrocket, similar to what we saw just last year.

A close-up of white eggs in a carton.

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At the very least, Herbruck’s outbreaks will negatively impact its business. Herbruck’s normally brings in about $1 billion every year, and they’re the largest egg producer in Michigan.


An Ongoing Outbreak

This current strain of the bird flu began two years ago. However, it has recently picked up steam as the virus has infected many egg producers such as Herbruck’s, as well as many dairy and cattle farms in the United States.

Dairy cows in a farm eating.

Source: Austin Santaniello/Unsplash

While the risk of humans becoming infected with the virus remains low, avian influenza remains a massive problem for many farmers and companies. So far, about 90 million birds have been infected by this virus in the U.S.


The Effect on Michigan

Certain states, such as Michigan, have been hard hit by the virus. Paul Isely, a professor of economics at Grand Valley State University, has explained how this outbreak could harm the whole Michigan community in different ways.

A street with cars parked on it and a lit-up building seen in the evening in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Source: Brad Switzer/Unsplash

“We’re seeing about two-thirds of the impact of the avian flu right now that’s happening in the United States here in Michigan. It will have a material effect on many communities,” he said. “A quarter-of-a-billion-dollar industry shutting down — that has a lot of effect on tax revenues, it has a lot of effect on people’s incomes,” he said.