Austin “Jack” DeCoster: Where is Wright County Egg Founder Now?

The safety of the food that we consume is one of the most crucial factors when it comes to taking care of one’s health. However, just how safe are the eatables that an average US citizen makes use of every day? Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, Netflix’s ‘Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food’ discusses the concerns that the country is facing when it comes to the food safety industry while also taking a look at some of the most notable food-related outbreaks that have haunted the country’s population in the past.

Consider the 2010 salmonella outbreak that was allegedly linked to Austin DeCoster, also known as Jack, one of the biggest egg farmers in the industry. This particular case has left many people wondering where the businessman is these days, and we are here to explore the same!

Who is Austin “Jack” DeCoster?

Having grown up in Turner, Maine, Austin “Jack” DeCoster became involved in the world of farming at the age of 12, apparently starting the venture with 250 chickens. As a teenager, he established Wright County Egg, which was previously known as DeCoster Egg Farms, after the death of his father, apparently because the family’s only probable source of income had been the numerous chicken that they were left with.

Over the years, DeCoster has been involved with several egg-based businesses, like the foundation of Quality Egg in 1961 and his work with Main Egg Producers. On August 30, 1979, the businessman apparently had to sell the then-DeCoster Egg Farms to Acton Food Services Corporation for $17.2 million. However, he bought back the company on May 22, 1985. That being said, it does not look like the Maine native has had the best time when it comes to dealing with the regulations surrounding the industry he has been a part of.

For about two decades prior to 2010, DeCoster’s business had been faced with various reprimands, penalties, and complaints. One of the most significant accusations against the company was that of animal cruelty. In June 2010, DeCoster and his family members involved with the business decided to plead guilty to a charge of animal cruelty allegedly taking place in a Maine facility that was home to 5 million birds, leading to a fine of $34,675.

However, in August 2010, DeCoster had to once again answer to the public after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 15 of the 25 salmonella outbreaks that had happened in the country around that time were linked to Wright County Egg. The company ended up recalling 380 million eggs from across the country, and the damage to DeCoster’s reputation was significant.

In May 2014, Jack DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster (Chief Operating Officer), were charged with bringing contaminated food into the market through their company, Quality Egg LLC. The company was accused of falsifying the age of their eggs as well as “bribing a public official, a felony, for an alleged 2010 payment to influence a US Department of Agriculture inspector to approve shell eggs that had been held back for failing to meet federal standards.”

Following the allegations against them, the DeCosters pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge pertaining to “introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.” Additionally, Quality Eggs LLC pled guilty to the bribery charges and consented to the fine of $6.8 million. In April 2015, following much deliberation, the father and son were sentenced to serve three months in prison each, along with paying $100,000 in fines separately. Their company also had to pay $6.79 million and was put on probation for three years.

While the two DeCosters tried to appeal their sentences, the US Supreme Court refused to hear the same. In June 2017, Peter DeCoster was asked to report to the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, South Dakota, in order to serve his sentence. He was to surrender himself to the relevant authorities after July 30, 2017, after being notified by the US Bureau of Prisons that the facility was ready to receive him. Jack DeCoster himself was scheduled to start his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Berlin, New Hampshire, 30 days after the release of his son.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster is Fighting Another Legal Battle Now

As of writing, DeCoster seems to still be active in the world of business. During the legal process surrounding the 2010 salmonella outbreak, he was open about his medical issues, stating that he had prostate cancer. In fact, he had requested to serve his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Berlin, New Hampshire, as the facility is located about 70 miles from his home, making it easier for his family to ensure his safety.

While DeCoster is not active on the internet, he seems to have found himself in yet another legal battle in June 2023. In response to a lawsuit filed by the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE), two of DeCoster’s factory farm dairies, DBD Washington LLC and SMD LLC, agreed to regulate the amount of pollutants they might be responsible for in the area in and around Yakima Valley, Washington. That being said, this particular case does not seem to be directly linked to DeCoster himself.

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