RAMONA, Calif. (KGTV) - Piles of chicken carcasses, swarms of flies, and a horrendous stench are what neighbors around a Ramona egg ranch say they're struggling with daily.
However, the County of San Diego told Team 10 that the ranch has fixed the problems. Yet neighbors say that's not true and if anything, it's gotten worse. The family that owns the ranch claims it's always working to ensure it's in full-compliance with the County's requirements.
"We're actually getting whole limbs, chicken legs, skulls, and wings with the feathers still on them," says neighbor Sue Elliot. She describes for 10News all the waste that birds and other predators have swooped up from the huge Demler Brothers Egg Ranch and dropped around nearby homes.
"You can smell it for a couple of miles down that way and down that way," adds neighbor Tony Lee. He explains that the stench comes from mounds of chicken manure on the ranch.
Elliot adds, "They cover the tops of all of [the mounds] with shredded chickens and it's just red. It's just a sea of red."
Neighbors sent 10News pictures that they say were taken last October, before the County did an inspection in November, after getting a complaint about dead chickens and manure. The photos show what neighbors say is raw, red meat, dumped on pile after pile, accessible to a bird or insect.
"You've got to think, what disease is it carrying," Elliot asks.
"It just depends on what kind of bacteria is cooking in that pile ya know? We don't know," says Lee.
The ranch declined an on-camera interview but sent us this statement:
“We are a small, family-owned, multi-generational farm that has always worked closely with San Diego County to ensure we are in full-compliance with all county regulations and requirements. We began our farm in 1974 when the area was very rural with more farms than homes.
As is the case throughout California, as rural areas become more urbanized, new residents move to the area and demand changes to the way farmers and farms operate regardless of the impact those changes have on the farm or the rural lifestyle which drew the homeowners here in the first place. We are proud of our farm, and we will strive to be good neighbors as we continue our right to farm.”
The County tells 10News that it issued a written notice after finding piles of composting ground chicken carcasses were not covered up enough to prevent flies and birds from getting in and flies were breeding. The ranch was also issued a violation notice and a warning letter related to its use of pesticides. The County now says the issues appear to have been resolved and the ranch told the County its taking new steps to minimize odors.
Neighbors don't buy it.
"I feel like I'm just about getting the run around," says Lee.
In 2013, neighbors were concerned after a video surfaced that showed a worker at the ranch chasing hens, swinging at them with a stick. When hens stop producing as many eggs, they are routinely euthanized. In the case of Demler Brothers Egg Ranch, the hens were gassed with carbon dioxide, which is an accepted method. However, not all of the hens died.
So, the worker's apparent solution was to use a stick. The ranch said it was outraged to discover its hens were mistreated by an employee of a third-party company. The ranch says that individual was terminated by the vendor.
Neighbors say that now the ranch has been disposing of waste irresponsibly, harming the environment.
"The flies get in it and they multiply and then they spread across the countryside," adds Lee.
Elliot concludes, "[The people at the ranch] don't care. They just don't seem to care."