Newsbreak! Salmonella in eggs can make people very sick!
If you have been following the news lately, the safety of chicken eggs is becoming a major concern. As a relatively small flock owner, I thought it was time to take a look at the problem to be sure that I would not be contributing to it and also to serve as a guide for those who purchase eggs as reassurance that their eggs are safe to eat.
Large chicken producers raise an incredible number of chickens in a small space. Say that you crammed that many people together in a workplace environment you would probably see a lot of colds and flu being passed around. People would be stressed out because they would not be able to move around and get excercise. The noise level would be awful. Well, it may be an extreme example, but you get the point. It can’t possibly make for a healthy flock without a lot of iffy intervention.
A flock of chickens can pass a Salmonella infection along throughout the flock, resulting in eggs that have the Salmonella bacteria not only on the shells of the eggs, but in the egg itself.
What can a consumer do to ensure that he doesn’t get sick from eating eggs?
It is becoming more and more obvious that we cannot expect government to cover all the bases regarding our food and safety. Some basic, even common sense methods of handling eggs can go a long way toward preventing illness from eggs or any other food source:
- Wash your hands and any surfaces that raw eggs and eggshells come into contact with. I use a 30% lemon vinegar and water solution (post to follow) in a spray bottle as a final rinse to keep my kitchen (and hands) fresh.
- Cook eggs fully before eating them. That is ok with me as I always order scrambled eggs to go over my Eggs Benedict.
- Pasteurized eggs are available for those recipes where nothing but semi-cooked or raw eggs will do- check with your grocer for their availability.
If you follow this advice the likelihood of getting sick from your eggs (or any raw foods for that matter) will diminish to the point of being very highly unlikely to happen.
What can a small chicken egg producer do to prevent having a Salmonella problem in his or her hens?
First it is important to realize that although it may be in the news right now, it is very rare for a small egg producer to have a Salmonella outbreak in the flock. But here are some guidelines to help prevent any future problems (The good news is that this is pretty much common sense, good flock management rules to go by in any case!)
1. Start with healthy chicks. Buy your chickens from a reputable breeder whose flocks are inspected and known to be healthy.
2. Buy your feed from a reputable source. Salmonella can be introduced thorough feed that has been contaminated by rodents, feed additives that come from a questionable source, etc. Also, giving your birds the best nutrition possible will keep their immune systems strong and able to fight off diseases.
3. Store your feed in a way that rodents cannot access it. We use large drums with secure lids for our bulk feed, and secure the chicken feeders at night to minimize rodent contamination. Have a system in place to deal with pest control- if for no other reason your neighbors will thank you.
4. Don’t overcrowd your chicken coops. Too many chickens in close quarters will spread disease among each other. Having coops that are designed for lots of fresh, circulating air is more important than airtight coops to keep chickens warm the old folks say. Chickens are very good at maintaining body heat in winter- that is what all those feathers are for!
5. Keep your coops clean. We like to keep a lot of straw and wood shavings in our coops allowing us to sweep up easily (we consider this our “miracle grow” additive for our gardens). We add a good layer of Diatomaceous Earth before the bedding materials to keep the pests from becoming an issue.
6. Follow guidelines for safe egg handling. This will be the subject of another blog, but essentially gather eggs often, clean properly, refrigerate quickly and sell while fresh!
Sure, I could go on and on about wearing separate clothes and shoes to handle the birds, not allowing other bird people into you flock areas, etc., but that is another article worth of info! Hope this helps!