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Serving: MI
barn on fire with plumes of smoke Photos by Chris Smet
DESTRUCTION: The fire broke out April 30 at one of the Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch facilities. Company plans to rebuild.

Barn fire kills 250,000 hens in Michigan

Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch near Odessa returns to full operation within 24 hours.

Despite the loss of a quarter-million laying hens in a barn fire April 30, Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch near Lake Odessa, Mich., was back to being fully operational in less than 24 hours, according to Herb Herbruck, who also said the company plans to rebuild. The fire will not “impact our ability to serve our many valued customers.”

No people were reported as injured in the fire that broke out around 6:15 p.m. in Ionia County, but all 250,000 hens died. “We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our hens,” Herbruck said in a May 1 statement.

Officials with Herbruck’s say employees had noticed smoke from one of the barns and called in the emergency, as well as many others traveling on nearby M-66 and Interstate 96 who saw flames and a plume of black smoke. The fire continued for more than five hours.

“We have been working closely with the fire department and an investigation of what started the fire is underway, and it will likely take several weeks for officials to determine the cause,” Herbruck said.

Herbruck’s, a major egg supplier for McDonald’s restaurants, is Michigan’s largest egg producer and the 13th largest in the United States. With more than 6 million laying hens, it produces about 5 million eggs a day.

Egg supply steady

“We do not anticipate any disruption to the egg supply in Michigan,” says Allison Brink, executive director of Michigan Allied Poultry Industries. “We are supported by 17 farms who can work cooperatively to ensure a safe and secure supply egg for all Michiganders. While Herbruck’s is fully prepared to manage the supply to their customers internally, the other Michigan egg producers are ready and available so that Michigan’s egg supply is unaffected.”

The burned barn is located near Portland Road and M-66 in Berlin Township, south of Ionia, and is one of several laying hen facilities owned by Herbruck’s in the Ionia, Lake Odessa and Saranac area. 

burning barn
MASSIVE SMOKE: The Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch barn fire burned for hours and sent a huge plume of black smoke into the air.

WOOD TV reported that Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch suffered a similar loss in 2005, when a barn burned to the ground, killing 250,000 hens. The damages amounted to about $5 million. And the most recent fire was in February 2018, when seven fire departments battled a blaze that started in an egg storage cooler.

“We are truly thankful for the first responders in Ionia County, who are largely volunteer firefighters, who quickly responded to this fire and contained the damage to a single barn,” Herbruck said. “We also appreciate our employees for their quick response in calling first responders, which likely minimized further damage. We are thankful for the community’s continued support and thoughts during this difficult time.”

Company history

Herbruck’s was founded by Harry and Marilyn Herbruck in Ionia County in 1958, and its roots stretch back to the late 1920s, when Harry Herbruck Sr. began an egg delivery company in another part of the state, according to its website.

Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch is run today by Harry Jr.’s four sons, with their sister as a fellow shareholder. Five members of the fourth generation also work in the business. The company’s flock has grown from 3,000 laying hens in the 1950s to 6 million today. The company has nearly 400 employees, as well as others who work on contract.

Michigan is sixth in the nation for egg production, with eight family-owned farms and 15 million birds, mainly in west Michigan, according to MAPI. The egg industry has a total of $625 million in economic impact in the state.

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