If you’re an egg-eater, you could swear off eggs until federal investigators determine the cause of the Salmonella outbreak that has sickened thousands of people and led to the recall of a half billion eggs.
Or you could use common sense and avoid industrial eggs all together.
Salmonella outbreaks occur in chickens when they live in unsanitary and inhumane conditions. Infected hens transmit the bacteria to their eggs.
Chickens that are confined in cages or crowded sheds are more likely to be contaminated, while chickens raised on pasture are less at risk for disease.
It’s common sense that contaminated fecal matter will spread more readily among 100,000 confined birds jammed into tiny cages or crowded spaces than it will among birds roaming freely on pasture.
It’s common sense that hens living in close contact with out-of-control rodent populations that can transmit salmonella to birds will be more diseased than chickens living outside.
It’s common sense that de-beaked and force-molted birds will be more prone to disease than chickens that are allowed to peck, build nests, and exhibit their natural chicken-y behavior.
It’s common sense that hens fed a strict diet of corn and soy will be less healthy than hens that forage for a diverse array of greens and insects.
It’s common sense that tortured chickens are going to be more susceptible to disease than happy chickens that spend their days scratching and foraging on pasture.
So if you want to eat eggs but don’t like worrying about Salmonella contamination, skip the supermarket and visit your local farmers market instead.
“Free-range” eggs from the supermarket are not synonymous with “pasture raised.” Free-range chicken eggs have no legal definition in the United States. Some industrial egg farmers sell their eggs as free-range because their chicken cages are two or three inches above average size, or because there is a window in the shed. So the label “free-range” does not guarantee that eggs are less at risk for Salmonella contamination.
You can find pasture raised eggs at most farmers markets for $3-5. Many CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) groups also include pasture raised eggs in their food shares. To find a farmers market or CSA near you, check out Local Harvest. Or visit Eatwild’s State-by-State Directory of Farms to find pasture raised chickens near you.
Craigslist is another surprisingly good place to find eggs from pasture raised chickens. People with backyard chickens often have more eggs than they can eat, so they end up selling extra eggs on sites such as Craigslist. Just search for “eggs” on your local Craigslist and see what pops up!