Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eggs, Salmonella, and Propaganda, Oh My!

The front page of today's USA Today issue invites readers to "take a peek inside a henhouse." Henhouse is a gross understatement. Pearl Valley Eggs is a HUGE facility with several football-field size houses filled with countless 27-inch cages. They produce up to 850,000 eggs a day... That's a whole lot of eggs, and a whole lot of hens. And USA Today makes it seem like heaven on earth for those "healthy and disease-free" hens.

The point of the article is to dissuade readers from believing "animal rights groups and organic supporters [who] have pointed a finger of blame at this kind of industrial agriculture." Hmm...

Unless you've been living under a rock, you should know that we're up to 550 million eggs that have been recalled for salmonella. Seriously, think about that number. 550 MILLION. This is the largest egg recall in history, and it's made many Americans actually start thinking about what's going onto their plates.

Instead of trying to sugar coat industrial agriculture like USA Today did today, let's take a quick look at some facts:
  • Eggs become infected with salmonella because hens become infected. Once the hen is exposed to salmonella through dust, feces, insects, etc. the egg is infected before the shell is even formed.
  • Large scale facilities have hundreds of thousands of hens in extremely confined spaces. Once one hen is infected, the overall rate of exposure and overall infection increases exponentially.
  • Large-scale egg operations with 100,000+ hens are 4 times more likely to have a salmonella issue than smaller-scale, non-organic operations.
  • Egg production facilities are not required to test for salmonella.

If you just take a look at these facts, common sense will tell you that large-scale factory farming obviously results in a higher risk of salmonella.
I have an clear bias toward local and/or organic eggs for various reasons, but as far as salmonella goes, it's simple. Smaller-scale farms have fewer hens in a larger space. The risk of salmonella exposure in these farms is significantly lower than the risk in industrial egg operations.

So I guess the real question is, why is USA Today trying to discourage its readers from buying local and/or organic? Maybe it has something to do with agricultural biotech machine Monsanto's "Dairy Coalition" that was created to pressure editors of major news sources to keep negative press out of the papers... Just a thought.

Anyway, the moral of the story is to read critically and think about the factors that might be influencing what you read. And buy local. :) Thoughts on industrial agriculture versus local and organic agriculture? Salmonella? Monsanto? Administrative regulation?


  1. You are fantastic. I see journalism in your future. Actually, you're doing it quite nicely now.