Salmonella outbreaks, probably affecting 1,300 people, have put eggs in the news recently. 550 million eggs have been recalled from Wright County Egg and from Hillandale Farms in Iowa.
550 million eggs. From two farms.
A large egg is about 2.25 inches long. If you laid 550 million eggs end to end, it would reach more than 3/4 of the way around the earth.
That's a lot of eggs.
Both of these farms are linked to a certain Austin "Jack" DeCoster, a "habitual violator" of environmental regulations, according to the state of Iowa.
What can YOU do to avoid getting sick because of a "business man" like DeCoster, and to increase the safety of our food system?
Here's what you can do: buy eggs from a small farm, at a farmers' market, or at a market selling local food.
Why will that help?
First of all, small, independent farmers are far more likely to raise their chickens under sanitary and humane conditions. The kinds of massive, crowded chicken houses that cause sanitary problems don't even make sense for small farmers.
Second of all, if you buy your eggs from someone who actually played some role in their production, you can ask questions about farming techniques, safety records, and so on. And, more than likely, they're eating the eggs themselves.
Third of all, if for some reason there is a contamination problem on a small farm, it might affect hundreds or perhaps thousands of eggs—not half a billion.
Fourth of all, small farms that are selling under their own names rely on their reputation much more than agribusinesses whose products end up sold under tens or hundreds of brands. So a small farm with repeated problems would not last very long. Furthermore, regulatory agencies tend to deal with small farms more quickly and harshly than they deal with large agribusinesses.
Even at $3, $4, or $5 a dozen, which is what you might pay at a farmers' market in Boston, eggs are still a bargain. Especially when you compare them to the price of going out to eat. Or the cost of going to the hospital with salmonella.
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