Experts say big egg farms can mean big problems

  • In this photo taken Aug. 25, 2010, a free range chicken stand on a perch after laying her eggs at a farm where Todd Vincent and a partner farm organic chickens near Dawson, Ill. Eggs from the farm have not been affected by the FDA's massive recall of more than a half-billion eggs. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — From the first days of the recent recall of 550 million eggs from two Iowa farms, one issue about large-scale agriculture has been clear: When something goes wrong on a big farm, it's going to be a big problem.

It's a point even some supporters of industrialized farming acknowledge.

"If you have something go wrong, it'll generally go wrong through a million and a half birds," said Arnold Riebli, one of the owners of Sunrise Farms near Petaluma, which has more than a million laying hens.

But although big farms may end up with big problems, Riebli and others argue that their operations are no more at risk, or are even safer, than smaller farms. Others, such as the Humane Society of the United States, disagree.

The issue has received more attention since two huge Iowa farms acknowledged some of their eggs were contaminated with salmonella and ordered the recall. As many as 1,500 people have become ill in the outbreak, the largest blamed on a single strain of salmonella.

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