With the recent E Coli and Salmonella outbreaks across the US, the safety of eggs and produce is perhaps in question. While we assume our food is safe, whether from farm or grocery store, the risks of pathogens is impossible to rule out. So how do we at Feather’s Farm mitigate risk as much as possible? We’ll get to that, but first the facts…
How do eggs and produce get contaminated?
The CDC says this about egg contamination:
“Poultry may carry bacteria such as Salmonella that can contaminate the inside of eggs before the shells are formed. Eggs can also become contaminated from the droppings of poultry through the laying process or from the environment (e.g., contaminated poultry feed or bedding).” read more here
And concerning produce? Any number of things can be the source: contaminated soil, water, compost, wildlife, and even domestic animals. While reading up on the recent romaine case, I found a case from a few years ago where they were considering birds carrying dust….yes dust from one location to another. I’m sorry……how do you go about controlling that!
Now then, what are we doing to mitigate risk? First the eggs.
- Pasture Raised – By pasturing our hens they have plenty of space, fresh grass, and bugs to go around. Unlike typical free range the pasture, or range, we graze the hens on is controlled and therefore not over grazed like typical free range hens. That said, we move our hens at least every two weeks to fresh pasture. This frequent movement definitely gives us much healthier birds and is thought to minimize parasites.
- Clean Coop – The egg mobile has slats on the floor to reduce dropping buildup. Nest boxes are cleaned regularly and any moist bedding is replaced with dry. Our boxes are equip with rails that flip-up, this prohibits the hens from sleeping in the nest boxes which helps the nest boxes stay clean and dry.
- Frequent Egg Collection – Eggs are collected three times a day; noon, 4 PM and dusk. Doing so gives us cleaner eggs.
- Washing – All of our eggs get a bubble bath with a natural enzyme cleanser. Like it or not, Illinois requires graded eggs to be washed. We use an enzyme cleanser rather than bleach.
- Packing and Storage – Eggs are promptly graded, packed, and refrigerated after being washed. Any dirty or cracked eggs are discarded.
Now the produce.
- Compost – Our compost is OMRI listed plant based organic compost. While we have access to lots of chicken and rabbit manure we don’t use this in the garden.
- Row Covers – Reduce the chances of wandering wildlife like deer or rabbits to leave droppings in our beds.
- Water Quality – Tested and safe.
- Washing – Produce is washed prior to storage. Note: egg washing/packing is completely separate from produce washing/packing.
- Packing and Storage – Produce is promptly sorted, packed, and refrigerated after being washed.
After purchasing produce or eggs you should:
- Refrigerate produce and eggs
- Don’t cross contaminate
- Wash your eggs and produce again
According to eggsafety.org “On average only 1 of every 20,000 commercially produced eggs might contain the Salmonella bacteria, so you might encounter an infected egg once every 84 years…. So be aware, but don’t lose any sleep over this:)