San Joaquin Valley henhouse fire kills quarter-million hens


CERES, Calif. (AP) — An estimated quarter-million hens were killed when fire struck a large San Joaquin Valley henhouse last week, The Modesto Bee reported.

The cause of the April 23 fire at the Gemperle Family Farms facility south Ceres remains under review by the Stanislaus Regional Fire Investigations Unit.

The Bee said the henhouse was among those recently built by Gemperle as part of an industry trend toward providing more space for birds, spurred in part by a 2008 state ballot measure by groups concerned about hens confined to tight quarters.

“The damaged poultry barn was one of our newest cage-free aviary barns designed for hens to roam freely,” Gemperle said in an emailed statement. “It was a state-of-the-art building engineered for animal welfare, reduction of emissions, environmental sustainability, manure management, and worker safety and ergonomics.”

While still tallying losses, the company said it will continue donating eggs to needy people, including its share of 6 million eggs being provided through a distribution partnership to California nonprofits dealing with the coronavirus.