Wed, 09/22/2010 – 10:21am
The results are in!
Barry Estabrook took the challenge, sent eggs from his free-ranging hens to a lab to be tested and . . . no salmonella!
This may seem like no big deal, but his hens, like those my family raises, my grandparents raised, and countless generations before them raised . . . are in close proximity to manure, wild birds, mice and other creatures–all cited by the FDA as likely causes of the salmonella found in the contaminated Wright County Eggs.
Yet I slurp up my sunny-side eggs and lick the bowl when I make cakes with raw eggs, and have never once had a trace of food-borne illness as a result.
Why? Here’s what Mr. Estabrook’s investigations found, and what rings true to me and countless others who raise their own hens and eat their own eggs without fear.
- The chickens likely arrived from the hatchery as healthy chicks, unexposed to the bacteria according to Patrick McDonough, a bacteriologist at Cornell University’s veterinary school
- Raising chickens under a free-range system makes them less susceptible to salmonella. “I don’t think there is any doubt about it that healthy chickens living in decent surroundings are just going to be a lot more resistant to salmonella,” said John L. Ingraham, emeritus professor of microbiology at the University of California Davis. “Take any creature, ourselves included, you put them in a terrible stressful conditions and they become susceptible to disease.”
Ingraham also suspects that the massive doses of antibiotics fed to confined farm animals could be a factor in the spread of Salmonella. “Antibiotics kill off healthy, normal intestinal flora. That gives salmonella a good chance to get started there,” he said.
That’s why Ingraham, Estabrook, and I sop up our runny egg yolks with toast and feel just fine. You can too. To find someone raising healthy free-range hens near you at www.localharvest.org!