Thursday, August 19, 2010

Salmonella and Organic Eggs

As I write this post, another salmonella outbreak has occurred involving some 228 million eggs! An Iowa egg farm that ships all the way to places like California, has recalled eggs sold to distributors like Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemp. (See more here).


Photo Credit: theloushe


This bothers me on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin! And I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but seriously, do we really need to ship eggs half way across the country? What's with that? Just this bit of information alone tells me that trouble is brewing when you transport an egg that far, refrigerated or not. Besides, it just isn't necessary. It's not like California doesn't have a climate that's hospitable to chickens, unless you're talking about a political climate. But even with that, California is relatively "chicken-friendly". Once again, the theory that local is better wins the day.


Next, is the concept of 228 million eggs. The number boggles my mind! Just imagine how many chickens are needed to produce that many eggs from one supplier! In this particular case, Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa. Forgive me if your one of the chicken farmers that is part of this distributor, but if you've read my blog for a while, you know I favor smaller farming practices on a local level. Just a philosophy difference here, but raising chickens in cramped, over crowded, enclosed area breeds things other than healthy chickens. Things like... salmonella. I know these farmers work hard, but mass production just isn't the answer.


Finally, we come to the issue of organic verses non-organic. Let me state right away that any egg can contain salmonella bacteria. But the likelihood of an organic egg from a truly free-ranged hen is far less likely to be contaminated with this pathogen because the environment isn't as much of a breeding ground for the salmonella bacteria. At least in comparison to a large, over-crowded hen house on a massive scale. 


I have great concerns about the conventional feed given to these commercial chickens which most likely contains corn as the number one ingredient. And you can be sure that the corn is genetically modified unless it's organic. What are GMOs doing to our food chain that we're not even aware of yet? Could a propensity for bacteria be one of the side effects? (This is strictly my own mind wandering and not something I've read or researched.)


If you have ever wondered about raising your own layers, but weren't really sure it was for you, perhaps now would be a good time to seriously consider it. 




Discouraging Salmonella Contamination In Backyard Flocks


• Collect eggs often and refrigerate as soon as possible, especially during warm months.
• Keep clean nesting material in the nesting boxes. Change this as often as necessary. 
• Clean your coop on a regular basis. If it's so bad you don't want to be in there, neither should your hens.
• Maintain a healthy flock. If one of your layers appears ill, isolate it until you can determine the issue and return it to your flock, disease free.
• Don't bring in birds from another flock until you've quarantined them and know they are healthy.
• Don't wear boots or shoes in someone else's coop and then walk in your own coop unless you clean them well before entering your own.
• Don't wash off the bloom from the egg. If necessary use a dry brush or rough scouring pad to remove fecal matter that may have collected on the egg. Wash only as a last resort and use only water that is warmer than the egg itself. 
• If you're still concerned after cleaning soiled eggs, store them separately in your refrigerator and use these in recipes that you know will cook at a temperature high enough to kill salmonella.


Salmonella poisoning is serious business. But occurrences should be extremely rare. The best way to protect your family is to know your farmer. Either the one down the road or the one in the mirror.


Want to add a comment or a tip for discouraging salmonella? 










Photo Credit for Farm Fresh Eggs: Shawn Econo

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