19 August 2010

380 Million Reasons to Own Your Own Hens

380,000,000 is the estimated number of eggs now being recalled in response to a salmonella outbreak.

Grocery stores across the state yanked eggs off their shelves after one of the largest U.S. producers recalled 228 million eggs connected to a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people across the nation, including as many as 266 in California.

On Wednesday the Associated Press reported that the recall had expanded to 380 million eggs.

The eggs, produced by Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa, also were linked to a number of illnesses reported in June and July in Colorado and Minnesota, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak led to a surge in reports of infection with the bacteria salmonella enteritidis this summer — at least four times the expected number, the agency said in a statement Monday.

Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain, and can be fatal to young children and older people. No deaths so far have been reported in connection with the egg recall.

I've posted about egg factories before, and have often extolled the virtues of free-range or cage-free eggs. There isn't much I can add in this regard, other than to say: this is one of those times when we really, really appreciate having our own healthy livestock and knowing exactly where our food is coming from.

A few quick thoughts, however:

First, if you want an eye-opening experience, do a Google search on the phrase "DeCoster Farms," which is the agribusiness conglomerate of which Wright County Egg is part. Pretty remarkable how many different controversies this one company has been involved in. But I guess that's not surprising, when a "farm" (sic) gets so large and disconnected from its customers.

If you can't keep your own laying hens, I'd strongly encourage you to buy your eggs directly from a small farmer who does. Yes, those eggs can be a little more expensive, especially if the farmer is trucking them in to an urban farmers market. But they don't have to be, if you're able to go directly to the source. Around here, there are several farmers selling eggs for $1.50/dozen. The biggest hassle is making an extra stop, not coming up with extra money. But make that extra stop. Have that extra conversation with that extra person. See how their chickens are being kept. And I bet you'll never worry about your eggs making you sick.

And if you think you can't have your own chickens...think again. You'd be amazed at how creative some folks have become at keeping them stealthily in urban or suburban environments. And to my readers back home in Seattle: kudos to your city council for just unanimously voting to allow the keeping of up to eight hens on properties within the city limits! It really is becoming possible to be a yeoman farmer nearly anywhere.


Anonymous said...

I was hoping you'd jump all over this issue. I smiled when I heard about the egg recall, because in my refrigerator are one dozen farm fresh eggs from a neighboring farm. I gladly pay the $1.50 with confidence! I live in Midland County where there are plenty of small, rural farmers. I love buying their sweet corn for $3/dozen, knowing it was just fresh picked! It is such a pleasure talking to some of the elderly farmers who are happy to share their produce success stories with you. I've learned so much from them.

Terri said...

Suddenly, all of the people who work with my husband want eggs! Our hens went through a lag in their laying with this hot summer, but now they are back to normal. We charge $3 per dozen here, and I spend that much on eggs when my hens aren't laying.

TYF said...

Terri - No kidding about that summer lag. We were down to our last few eggs a week or two ago. Was so bad, we were even cracking open eggs the hens had "stashed" and that we suspected were bad (many were, but we found the good ones).

We suspended all sales and give-aways to family and friends. Fortunately, the gals seem to be picking back up again. Even one of our ducks is getting into it, and has begun laying. Just hope we can keep the momentum going. I suspect that with this egg recall, we're going to be getting a lot of new inquiries.

Bill and dogs said...

I just chanced onto your blog by following the "next blog" button on my own (http://windsweptadventure.blogspot.com/).

I am currently in the city but have purchased a farm on which to retire and raise cattle and chickens. I have been unable to eat eggs since I left the farm and no longer had my own hens. My birds were contented, active and had both commercial and natural foods. Their eggs were especially wonderful when I brought them armloads of wild catnip. Store bought eggs are so horrible by comparison that I just don't bother. I will be eating eggs again in a few years. The downside for me was that my hens became pets and got to use my farm as a retirement home long after their producing days were gone. I miss them.

I'll bookmark your blog and follow it.