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The Politics of Eggs and Eggs Producers: When Press Releases pass as journalism on MLive

January 17, 2023

On January 9th, MLive posted an article with the headline, Poultry farm donated 2.2 million eggs in 2022. 

The article, which is short, cites a Herbruck’s family member and talks about how many eggs are donated to food pantries in Ionia. The MLive also says that Herbruck’s sent out a Press release about their eggs donation, so I decided to check their Press Release and compare it to the MLive article. It was is all to common with commercial news media, MLive pretty much just reprinted the Press Release from Herbrucks Poultry Ranch. You can compare the MLive article and the Herbruck’s Press Release, which are side by side at the bottom of this article.

It’s bad enough that MLive wasn’t honest enough with readers to tell that that their posting was essentially a slightly edited version of the Press Release, but MLive could have decided to use the opportunity to do a more investigative piece on the CAFO – Concentrated Animal Farm Operation. Doing a more investigative piece would also be timely considering that the cost of eggs has increased significantly over the past month, going from roughly $2 a dozen to more than double, at $5 a dozen. This increase in a staple food item, just adds to the already ridiculous cost of living for many families in West Michigan.

MLive also could have talked about the fact that Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, like most large farm operations, has been the recipient of significant subsidies from the federal government’s Farm Bill. According to the Environmental Working Group, between 1995 and 2019, Herbruck’s received $583,391.74 in subsidies. 

MLive also might have brought up the issue that got a fair amount of local news coverage in 2010, when the City of Grand Rapids held a public hearing on raising chickens within city limits. Most of the people who spoke at that public hearing were in support of people being able to raise chickens in their back yards, but there were a few exceptions. Here is what we wrote in 2010:

As we mentioned in a previous article, one of the largest egg producers in the state, Herbrucks was opposed to the ordinance change and 3 of the Herbruck’s grandsons addressed the commission. They all spoke about the potential for diseases in an urban setting, but mostly they focused on wanting to protect the profitability of their businesses. After members of the Herbruck’s family spoke, the vice president of production got up and painted a grim picture about avian caused diseases, even though he never cited any documentation to support his position.

Then there is the issue of what the average worker makes at Herbruck’s. Many of the workers who tend to the chickens in jobs that are referred to as crew members start off at $10.40 and hour and on average make $12.25 an hour. Considering how much rental costs are or what a monthly mortgage payment is for people people, $12.25 an hour would not cover the cost of rental fees or monthly mortgage payment. In fact, for those living in the area, they probably need to get food assistance from food pantries, maybe even some of the food pantries that Herbruck’s has donated eggs to. 

This is the harsh reality for so many individuals and families in the Greater Grand Rapids area, that the cost of basic necessities, whether that is food, utilities or hosing costs are on the rise, while wages remain stagnant and woefully inadequate. 

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