Friday, August 20, 2010

A Fowl Affair

It's all over the news these days - the failings of our industrial food system. Peanut products in early 2009, spinach in the spring 2010, and ground beef earlier this month. In fact, the government has an entire website devoted to keeping updated information on food recalls! So, it's not particularly surprising that eggs were next on the roster.

This is not any old recall, though. With headlines covering NPR, the BBC, NY Times, EVERYWHERE, this is something special. Mr. Jack DeCoster is a serial offender in the food atrocities realm. From human rights violations (working/living conditions, etc.) to environmental infractions, this large egg operation is the poster child for bad behavior. It doesn't help much that DeCoster looks the part of a dirty old man, too.

August 18 marked hundreds sick with Salmonella and 380 million eggs recalled. As of today, over 500 million eggs have been recalled, and more reports of illnesses are expected as eggs in circulation are consumed. Thankfully, speedy action is remedy a problem that started in MAY!

But kids, let me tell you, these eggs get around. According to NPR, "The eggs were distributed around the country and packaged under the names Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemp. It wasn't immediately clear when the eggs were produced and distributed." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is really difficult to figure out where the eggs you eat come from, not to mention how the chickens are treated or impact the surrounding environment.

Salmonella is one of those illnesses you grow up hearing about - "don't eat the cookie dough, honey, there are raw eggs in it." Yadda, yadda, yadda; we all did anyway. However, now I would tread lightly and warily. Salmonella enteritidis is a bacterium that, when ingested, can cause individuals to develop a fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Sounds fun. As far as chickens contracting the bug and spreading it to others and their eggs, well that is largely correlated with the health and sanitary standards of the operation (read: how much are they mucking around in their own feces). Large industry fails in these departments, which could be why a UK study essentially showed that 'happy' chickens don't harbor as much salmonella!

If this all doesn't convince you to pay more attention to where your farm-fresh eggs originate, I don't know what will. Remember, an egg from a local, happy, outdoors, chicken with access to bugs and grass probably costs a pretty penny more than a factory farmed one, but the external costs of polluting the environment, mistreating the animals, and compromising human health are extraordinarily high. There is almost always the option of getting your own chicken or two to ensure some fantastic eggs (Seattle just upped its limit to 8)!

Photos will be back on Monday or Tuesday! :)

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