Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's not so EGGcellent

This latest round of salmonella infested eggs has me rethinking my choice to eat meat. A recent article in the LA Times detailed (via FDA reports) the disgusting state of the chicken farms from which the ill eggs were derived. I'll let you read the article yourself if you like, but (as maybe the least disturbing detail) I'll share this: There was manure built up as high as 8 feet pushing pit doors open allowing vermon in and chickens out to wander in the crap. It's no wonder the eggs contained salmonella (not to mention the shockingly dirty water used to "clean" the eggs).

I love cured ham. I will never become a vegetarian based on my love for prosciutto. HOWEVER - I do think there is something to be said about being an educated consumer and a humane omnivore. Purchasing eggs from chickens kept in sanitary and healthy living conditionss not only makes you feel good, but it also allows your intestinal tract to function properly. Confused by the varying types of eggs sold in grocery stores? Me too. Definitions follow.

Lesson for the day: 

Producers must demonstrate to the FDA that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside. A vague definition, but none-the-less better than no legal definition at all.

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural. The label must explain the use of the term natural (e.g., no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.)

A term that appears to have no legal definition for the USDA or FDA. This means that "Cage Free" is up to seller to define (uh-oh).

A term that refers to the regulations and standards of the feed fed to the chickens. For eggs to be labeled "organic," the chickens must be fed organic feed (grown without commercial fertilizers or pesticides), and not given hormones or antibiotics. This has nothing to do with how the animals are kept, however.
A paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones with attached edible meat under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. Can be found in products such as the Slim Jim.

Interested in this topic? I suggest the following reads:

If you haven't already, Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: The Penguin Press, 2006.

Nestle, Marion. Food Politics. Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press, 2007.

A USDA fact sheet on Meat & Poultry Labeling

The FDA's report on the state of the Iowa egg farms

Don't have the time to read? Watch Food Inc., it's free, relatively quick and on-demand on Netflix.

What makes me an expert? I'm not - by any means. But I am getting my Masters in Public Health and I currently work as a Nutritional Policy Advocate. All I'm saying is take the time to know where your food comes from. It might shock you. It definitely shocked me.

Sick of all the questions I am posing? Okay, I'll stop.


Diana said...

Oh my! Icky, huh! It's good incentive to shop at the farmer's market or join a CSA, where you can probably visit the farm as see how things are cared for in person.

Elyse said...

Definitely! Good point.

Ashley said...

If only everyone could eat the eggs that come from E's parents backyard. Those are the most spoiled chickens on earth. They are fed organic veggies and quinoa!