The Case of Jack DeCoster
Un unscrupulous businessman built one of the nation’s largest egg production operations while breaking environmental and labor laws – only to face prison time as a result.
His lawyers have asked that he serve his sentence at a minimum security prison camp in Turner, Maine so he remains close to family, doctors and church community.
Early Life and Education
Jack DeCoster acquired 100 chickens as a teenager and transformed them into an egg empire, eventually founding three farms across three states. Critics accuse him of labor and environmental violations while his supporters applaud his dedication and work ethic – once living in poverty but now giving away millions to charities.
Myron Levin of The Maine Times noted DeCoster’s businesses frequently violated state labor and environmental laws; yet they paid millions in fines as costs of doing business.
Judge Daniel DeCoster reversed the order of sentencing so Jack DeCoster will report first, followed by his son who will serve his time at a minimum-security facility in New Hampshire.
DeCoster began his egg business as a teenager in 1949, founding Wright County Egg, Hillandale Farms, Ohio Fresh Eggs, and Quality Eggs of Maine companies with which are associated with labor violations, environmental health risks and animal cruelty violations over many decades.1 These violations include labor issues such as low pay for workers in their workplace as well as animal abuse issues that have gone undetected for many years.1
One former journalist who has followed Jack’s company refers to him as “Notorious Jack,” due to his frequent run-ins with state and federal law enforcement officials as well as workers filing lawsuits seeking fair wages, medical coverage, safe working conditions and access to legal help2.2
Yet despite his troubles, he has never served jail time. Instead, he sees his millions in fines as insurance premiums–the cost of doing business; for migrant workers fearful of deportation however, those costs don’t include freedom costs.
Austin “Jack” DeCoster, who established one of the country’s largest egg production operations despite facing labor and environmental violations, is widely perceived by his friends to be both an arrogant and ruthless businessman as well as a community benefactor who gives away wealth to charity while counseling inmates about Christianity. Critics, on the other hand, accuse him of exploiting workers while treating his animals in deplorable conditions.
DeCoster has paid millions in fines over time for all kinds of offenses ranging from falsifying trucking logs and hiring illegal immigrants, animal cruelty, environmental contamination and workplace safety violations – but has never faced jail time.
He plans on surrendering himself to federal marshals a week or so before Thanksgiving and would prefer FCI Berlin, a medium-security prison with a satellite minimum security prison camp, because it’s closer to Turner, Maine where his home is.
Austin “Jack” DeCoster stands out among America’s egg producers as one of the nation’s premier salmonella and excrement distributors, prompting a national recall last month from Iowa henhouses owned by him. For decades he has amassed labor, environmental and public health violations across multiple states – something only two other egg producers in Iowa have accomplished to date.
He’s paid millions in fines for everything from falsifying trucking logs, exploiting immigrant workers and disregarding workplace safety concerns to environmental contamination, animal cruelty and making employees live in subpar company trailers.
Friends and family describe him as both stubborn and ruthless, yet generous in charitable giving. His businesses appear to view millions they’ve paid in fines as simply another cost associated with doing business – something many other people might perceive differently.