The Egg Recall and Why Local Isn't Necessarily Better

www.mypicshares.com

I’ve already written about food recalls a number of times, but the point about finding sustainable food is one that I find must be revisited often…because there are so many misconceptions going around about why simply avoiding one brand over another is not enough.

And I’ll also tell you why it’s really important to know your farmer and what practices he or she uses to raise the chickens that lay the eggs you are going to eat.

Read the conversation that convinced me to write this post:

Last week, someone in my family (who shall go nameless to keep the peace, and he never reads my blog anyway) called and asked me about eggs. He wanted to know where I buy my eggs. I replied that I buy them from the Capital City Public Market (in downtown Boise, ID) farmer’s market from a farmer from Payette, ID (it’s about 60 miles away from where I live in Boise). The farm is Matthew’s All Natural Meats.

Then he asked about another egg supplier, a company that’s been around since I was a child, or maybe longer. I have a distinct recollection of going there and seeing closed-in hen houses where the chickens were confined, and the odor I noticed from this business when I got out of the car was definitely strong of excrement. I replied that I wouldn’t buy my eggs there, and I asked him if he wanted to know why.

His reply: “no, this place is local and that’s good enough for me and my wife.”

To clarify, I asked, “so you don’t care if the chickens at this local hatchery are raised in the same way as the ones in the recall?”

“No.” He said.

So while it’s true: all these eggs are sourced back to Iowa farms Wright County Egg and from Hillandale Farms, owned by Austin DeCoster (who is, by the way, a known offender of safety and environmental regulations), you might be thinking:

“But I don’t live anywhere near Iowa, and the eggs I buy are from another source entirely. How could I get sick from eating those eggs?”

Just because you are buying eggs from some other supplier that wasn’t mentioned on the recall list or even buying foods locally, it does not mean you are going to be assured of a safe, healthy product that won’t make you sick.

Those eggs from the recent recall were recalled because of the farming practices used on those chicken farms – chickens crammed together in close quarters, pooping all over each other, getting diseases and being administered antibiotics, feed¬† covered in chemicals and pesticides (and from genetically-modified sources). That’s where salmonella contamination comes from. Those birds are not allowed to roam around out in the open and eat bugs, worms, and have access to the outdoors and sunshine.

Buying eggs from farmers who raise their chickens sustainably will guarantee you will not have eggs from diseased and sick birds. It’s always a good idea to know the farmer or call him or her at the very least, and ask about the practices they use.

What does sustainable really mean?

Are the birds out in the open, on grass, eating bugs and dirt, and being exposed to sunshine? That’s what chickens are supposed to do, by the way. It’s what nature intended. Are the chickens free from antibiotics, chemicals, and other toxic substances? Chances are, a smaller operation and farm will be much more likely to care about the relationships they have with customers and to make sure their birds are raised in healthy and sanitary conditions. Most small-time operations have a reputation to protect, and they are not going to put it on the line by not keeping their practices clean. Plus, many of those small farmers believe in the principles of animal and bird stewardship and want to produce a healthy and sustainable product.

And you might pay more for a dozen eggs from a local, sustainable farm. But compare that to the cost of getting sick from salmonella and having to miss work or school, and a trip to the E.R. It’s also the case that eggs from healthy hens on pasture have more nutrients in them because unlike their conventional counterparts, healthy birds on pasture and out in the open are exposed to the sunshine and outdoors (think Vitamin A, D, E, and K), a better balance of Omega 3s to 6s, and up to five times the amount of conjugated linoleic acid – a known antioxidant and nutrient important for many aspects of health including the cardiovascular system. Now that makes financial sense.

There is something else you need to be aware of: the media, food safety officials, nor mainstream health or medical sources will never tell you this information because to do so would compromise the safety regulations and laws that are already in place, and it would uncover a vast number of other farms guilty of the same violations. That would make government entities and businesses look bad. It might also, just maybe, alert the public to what’s been going on in the food industry for decades and decades, start a revolt, and cause those companies to have to change their practices or be shut down. But then again, I think I might just be living in a dream world.

Those companies are huge, profitable, and POWERFUL. They’ll stop at nothing to maintain that status, and everyone in those industries and government positions knows each other, works together, and protects each other. Is it starting to make sense now as to why these operations are allowed to continue on their merry way of selling toxic food and food products to the public? Most of the time, those companies get a slap on the hand at the very worst – a fine, or something of that nature, which is easily absorbed by a big corporation.

And the safety standards? Well, it might be interesting to know that those farms who produced the recalled eggs were only required to adhere to them on a “voluntary” basis. So much for following “the law”.¬† And guess what? Most of the eggs on the market come from premises like these. So even though the carton your eggs come in might say, “cage-free” or “all-natural”, those eggs are still likely from unhealthy chickens in confinement. Marketing terms and lingo are very tricky that way, and lead consumers to believe they are getting something good, when in fact, they probably are not.

The same goes for any food item on a recall list. More and more you will see these recalls happening, and more and more it is going to be critical for consumers to be aware of why these foods are being recalled…despite food safety regulation laws, despite government laws being stepped up and protocols becoming more strict. Creating more laws and stricter regulations simply won’t prevent what has been occurring from occurring again in the future.

Consumer and farmer habits can change the future

The only thing that will change this onslaught of low-quality foods being mass produced and continuing to be recalled is awareness and activism on the part of farmers and consumers to produce sustainable foods and to buy them and support only those farmers and food growers adhering to those strict standards. It may sound strange or even impossible, but it’s the whole truth. If you think most food recalls aren’t from industrial and conventional sources, just look up any food recall and see where it’s sourced. If nothing else, that alone should convince you.

Here are just a few of the recalls in the recent past (and note, ALL sources are conventional and industrial):

Although not all of these companies are as large as companies like Tyson and Cargill (note, both of these companies are included in these recall articles), they all have something in commonindustrial farming practices are used in growing their food. And therein lies the problem.

So, please, please, please, don’t just keep buying the same foods (Heaven forbid!), or go over to some other brand that you know nothing about. Because chances are, you’ll just end up buying another carton of eggs, or another package of meat, or another bag of produce from a conventional source where the food is produced or raised in a similar way to the Iowa farm eggs – in closed in hen houses and in the most filthy, abominable conditions possible. In the case of produce, most of these foods are being contaminated by run-off water and other similar situations from factory farms where E.coli or salmonella are an issue (again, confinement facilities for animals) .Make it a point to learn about where your food comes from, know your farmer, and by all means, do support local – just make sure it’s sustainable.

More reasons to buy sustainable?

Is cheap food really cheap? The hidden costs of industrial food

Fortified and processed foods: are label claims about nutrition true?

Huge FDA recall of 10,000 products – another wakeup call to avoid processed foods!

7 Comments

  • September 14, 2010 - 10:35 AM | Permalink

    I buy my eggs from a farm that is 10 minutes from my in-laws. We visit all the time, ask tons of questions, get to look around the farm. Last time we were there, the farmer’s wife was washing and boxing the eggs laid THAT DAY for us to take home. Talk about fresh! All their animals are clearly out on pasture — we get to walk right up and pet them! I LOVE THIS! I eat their eggs exclusively. I eat the yolks raw all the time and know that I’m safe. Other people look at me like “Are you crazy?” but I’m not, because I know exactly where my eggs come from and how they are raised! This is SO important to me. I wish more people felt the same and really understood this. Sharing on FB.

  • September 15, 2010 - 6:12 AM | Permalink

    This is a great blog! My friend, who works for the health department in Oregon and I got into a discussion about this very issue a few weeks ago. We went back and forth on it awhile–she eventually conceeded that not all eggs are the same. It all boils down to “know your farmer.”

    • Jan
      September 15, 2010 - 9:00 AM | Permalink

      As the friend from the health department, that is an interesting interpretation of my words ( finally conceeded) Since my intial statement was that fresh, local, cage free etc was so much better for many health reasons, BUT pathogens exist everywhere, and sometimes not do to the farmers practice, rodents can transfer these diseases etc. It is not about conspiracy, but keepign people safe. Food safety and healthy lifestyles are related, yet unrelated…..
      I am glad you have finally found a healthy, sustainable lifestyle; something not new to everyone. The important thing is that good and accurate information is passed on to others, because our country is overwhelmingly unhealthy in their diets and lifestyles, which is a separate issue from pathogenic microbiology ( that doesn’t lead to heart disease, CAD, Diabetes and the like) Knowledge is power, but not competition.

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:28 AM | Permalink

    Kate – thank you for visiting! I am glad you are buying eggs from truly healthy hens on pasture. That’s the only way to go, and as you know, any other farmoing technique is inferior. That’s why “free-range” and “cage-free” terminolgies are pretty much meaningless. It’s unfortunate that getting this point across to people is such an arduous task. But we just need to keep on educating and helping to make aware. Thanks for all you do for the food community by buying sustainable and keeping your great blog! ;)

  • September 15, 2010 - 10:05 PM | Permalink

    Sarah – thanks for visiting! The disagreement you had with your friend Jan is one I am familiar with, and this is something I know a lot of people are talking about more and more – which is definitely good! The fact that people are having disagreements is positive because it opens the floor up to possibilities to inform and educate about healthy chickens raised outside without chemical intervention, versus battery chickens raised indoors who have no access to sun, soil, and air, and who are administered antibiotics to keep illness away from being in such close, filthy quarters and the unnatural environments in which they find themselves. Such a shame, actually, that most people are not able to see this scene first hand, because I think that is the thing that would really cause the facts to hit home with people, and cause a major change in buying habits as well as attitude toward our food system and the way the safety aspects are “managed” in the modern world.

    Jan – I understand what you are saying about microorganisms and bacteria – it’s true there are a number of factors which dictate the types of bacteria and how they are spread. But the thing most people don’t understand and fail to acknowledge is that in a factory farm environment, microorganisms are allowed to become pathogenic due to the very environment itself – a controlled, standardized place where all good bacteria are wiped out by antibiotics and the fact that those birds are confined in the most unnatural circumstances, where good, diverse bacteria has absolutely no chance of survival. Did you know good bacteria must be present in order to keep the numbers of pathogenic bacteria down to safe levels? It’s true that pathogenic bacteria are everywhere, but in a bio-diverse environment where animals are raised in harmony with nature and the soil and earth and creatures are allowed to have air, sun, and access to pasture, the mechanisms that govern the natural cycles of the earth take care of themselves beautifully – without a standardized system controlled by covering up the windows and cramming all the chickens together in quarters they obviously were not meant to be in the first place. Natural environments have a way of keeping themselves healthy because the good bacteria are allowed to thrive and multiply – and you can’t say that for a factory farm environment where the main purpose is to produce the most amount of eggs, hogs, chickens, cattle, or whatever commodity is in question – in the shortest amount of time for profit. Nature doesn’t like being made to have a time limit on growing a healthy animal or bird, and when those natural cycles are interrupted, disaster peaks. So while pathogenic bacteria can thrive in sustainable environments, the chances of our digestive tracts being as sensitive to those pathogens are much less likely if we are consuming a diet replete with foods from bio-diverse lands such as the sustainable food I have described at length here. A bio-diverse diet produces an environment in our digestive tracts that is equally diverse. It’s also where our immune system resides, and nothing helps build a strong immune system better than healthy, nutrient-dense foods from sustainable farms.

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