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Egg Truths

To bring my non-American readers (I know there are many of you) up to speed: the last few weeks has seen a MASSIVE egg recall for salmonella contamination. Last I heard the recall affected half a billion eggs.

I have learned a lot about eggs since I started keeping chickens.

another delicious breakfast

1. The United States has one of the worst food safety records in the developed world.

^ Just as a thumbnail overview, here is the rate of food-borne illnesses for 1996-1998:

United States: 26,000 cases per 100,000 citizens.
France: 1,210 per 100,000

I don’t understand how you can look at those numbers and not get outraged.

2. There is a vaccine for salmonella which was approved for use in poultry in the United States by the USDA in 1998.

The UK cut their rate of food-borne illness in HALF, and practically eradicated salmonella in eggs by instituting a voluntary vaccination campaign. The eggs from vaccinated chickens earned a red lion stamp. Eggs with those stamps could command a higher price.

3. The guy who ran this colossally huge battery hen operation found it cheaper to pay the fines than to fix the problems. He had been paying the fines for years.

How you can run such a filthy, disgusting operation and still be the nation’s single largest egg producer is an excellent example of why #1 is true.

4. With very few exceptions, eggs at the grocery store come from battery hens. That’s just how eggs are made, here in the US. With cruelty.

The only exception is eggs labeled “Certified Humane.” This includes Wilcox and – in Washington – Steibr Farm eggs. Not sure about other brands.

5. Eggs are naturally sterile. There are several overlapping biological mechanisms which keep eggs bacteria-free. (If it weren’t that way, we wouldn’t have chickens in the world left to lay them.)

You have to screw things up pretty badly for the contents of an egg to be infected with a pathogen.

In fact, trustworthy eggs don’t even need to be refrigerated. A surprising number of chicken owners store their eggs on the kitchen counter. I only keep mine in the fridge because my counter space is limited.

6. It doesn’t have to be this way. We deserve safe food. It is possible to sell us safe food – other countries do it all the time! But in order to fix the problem, we first have to admit that it exists.

7. Eggs don’t come out of the same hole as the poop. Without going into too much detail: there’s a flap.

6 comments to Egg Truths

  • We get our eggs farm fresh. We know the farmers. Our eggs are fine, no one has ever gotten sick from them. Good farming practices stop a lot of icky stuff.

  • Cristina

    I had no idea about any of this. Very scary and enraging! I was angry already thinking that the supermarket eggs are weeks or months old by the time we buy them, but this is quite outrageous.

    I can’t keep chickens; we live in a condo, for one thing, and are overrun with snakes and osprey so they probably wouldn’t make it one day. :(

  • Thank you for your input on this. It’s helpful to hear the rational side of the whole equation.

  • Northmoon

    The closer you are to the source of your food, the better. Trusting corporations that are completely profit motivated is unwise. That goes for other products as well (eg beef, sun screen, household cleaners to name a few).

    I can’t keep chickens where i am now, but one of these days I’d like to be in a place where I could.

  • Wow. Thank-you for posting these facts. It is very enlightening.

  • two silver cats

    Yeah, there are areas here in Maine where if you want to swear, you don’t drop an F-bomb… you simply say “DeCoster.”