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Herbruck’s to lay off 400 employees due to bird flu outbreak

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, Michigan’s largest egg producer, announced it will lay off hundreds of employees in Ionia County due to an outbreak of avian flu.

In a notice filed with the state On Wednesday, Herbruck’s announced plans to lay off about 400 employees at five of its farms — three in Saranac and two in Lake Odessa. This decision will affect hourly and salaried employees as well as contractors.

Neighbors report smell and hazmat suits after bird flu outbreak

The company cited the impact of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, on its operations as the reason for the layoffs.

“The company’s chicken population on some of its Ionia County farms has been unexpectedly impacted by avian influenza, which is highly contagious to and fatal to chickens,” Herbruck’s wrote in the notice .

In a statement released to News 8, CEO Greg Herbruck said work was “not available” at the affected facilities. He added that the layoffs are expected to be “temporary” and that the company plans to rehire many workers as it recovers from the effects of the outbreak.

“In the face of continued efforts to detect highly pathogenic avian influenza alongside state and federal regulators, Herbruck’s has made the difficult decision to make layoffs at affected facilities where work is not available. We expect this to be largely 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 that this is a stressful situation for our team members, and we are working with our state partners to provide them with resources, answer their questions, and assist them with their individual family situations.

Greg Herbruck, CEO of Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch

The virus was detected last month at Herbruck near Saranac. The poultry farm responded by taking measures to stop the spread of the virus, including stopping the flow of birds in and out of the facility.

Saranac-area neighbors told News 8 on Wednesday that they had seen a lot of activity around Herbruck’s in recent weeks, describing “a lot of traffic” and workers in hazmat suits, and noting that it was “very smelly”.

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring said that when HPAI is detected, procedures and policies must be followed, including “preventive depopulation of herds.” He said bird composting can cause an odor.

Avian flu detected at commercial poultry farm in Ionia County

MDARD says there have been detections of avian flu in poultry flocks in Newaygo and Ionia counties. Avian flu can cause flu-like symptoms in poultry, such as lack of energy, appetite and coordination. It can also cause swelling, coughing, and reduced egg production. It is highly contagious among birds and can be spread through contact with infected poultry and equipment as well as through the clothing and shoes of keepers.

The state said the public health risk remains low and no birds or bird products infected with avian flu will enter the commercial food chain.

More information can be found at Michigan.gov/BirdFlu.

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