Arkansas Egg Producer Goes Organic

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 16, 2009 1:30 pm  

SUMMERS, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas egg producer has switched from conventional white to organic brown egg production as a way to address concerns raised by environmental regulators over chicken litter.

Arkansas Egg Co. previously kept its 700,000 hens in small metal cages inside large lay houses, producing the conventional white eggs found in grocery stores.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality last year fined Arkansas Egg $12,800 for permit violations, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an order last month that found the company in violation of the federal Clean Water Act in the way it disposed liquid manure.

Now, the cages are gone and the company has shifted to bovan brown chickens that produce organic eggs certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The chickens eat corn and soybeans grown on chemical-free farms, and the birds have access to the outdoors.

"I think we can satisfy," Michael Cox, company president, said. "We won't have any of these issues going forward."

Previously, trucks carried the liquid manure from the cages to farmers' fields in Benton and Washington counties, resulting in high amounts of phosphorus in the soil and eventually in nearby rivers and streams.

Waste was also collected in lagoons, and the waste sometimes spilled over tops of the levees.

Cox purchased the company in 2001. It previously operated as Ozark Egg and his father, Gary Cox, owned the company.

Michael Cox said Arkansas Egg has fewer birds and produces fewer eggs than the previous business. He said the bird manure is soaked up by wood chips and trucked to farms in Missouri. There are no metal cages and the lagoons are being closed in accordance with state regulations, he said.

Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for the state Environmental Quality Department, said Arkansas Egg apparently is making progress.

"The ADEQ will continue to monitor the company to make sure it adheres to the agency's order and properly closes out the lagoons," Sadler said.

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