Egg farmers are vigilant in creating and maintaining a safe environment in all areas of the farm. UEP’s farmer-members collaborate with the USDA, state agencies, veterinarians and public health officials to responsibly address the needs of employees, local communities and their flocks. As a part of farmers’ regular biosecurity protocols, the nation’s egg farms are positioned to assure the prevention of disease spread and the safety of those who work on America’s egg farms.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, farms have put additional measures in place, using guidance issued by the CDC and state public health authorities to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for employees.
Personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, are provided to employees, and social distancing is maintained in the barns, plants and common areas. On-farm practices include comprehensive cleaning and disinfection of equipment and processing areas and frequent hand sanitizing and hand washing for all employees. Egg processing facilities always adhere to strict sanitation procedures required by USDA Agriculture Marketing Services.
Employees are asked to stay home if they are ill or have been exposed to the virus. Many egg farms have implemented comprehensive health screening standards for workers, including temperature checks, symptom reporting, and COVID-19 testing for employees.
Numerous public health experts have confirmed that COVID-19 is not transmitted in food. The FDA website has an extensive online Q&A, and it states: “Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.”
Biosecurity protocols, established to protect hens from disease, also protect farm employees. While no two farms are exactly alike, here are examples of practices used to prevent disease at egg farms.
Egg farms may disinfect all vehicles, footwear and equipment upon entry on the farm or into a barn. Egg farmers also limit the movement of personnel, vehicles or equipment between different farms when possible. Some egg farms feature a guard at the entry point and require all drivers to complete paperwork before gaining entry to the farm.
Farms have installed footbaths that disinfect the footwear of anyone entering the barn. When used, the footbath is changed daily, or even more often, if it collects dirt, egg contents or manure.
Handwashing or hand-sanitizing stations are at the entrance of barns and other buildings. Many egg farms now use a Danish entry system, which provides more separation between the outside environment and the hens’ living area. Personnel are required to change footwear when they enter the hen house.
Some egg farms have added designated changing areas, where personnel “shower in” and change into designated coveralls and protective gear that stay at the farm. When their day’s work is done, they “shower out,” change back into their original clothes, and leave the designated clothing at the farm. This shower in/shower out system further limits the chance that a disease could come onto the egg farm through clothes or footwear.
The well-being of employees, excellent care for hens, and producing safe, nutritious eggs for consumers continue to be the highest priorities for UEP farmer-members.