No doubt many of you have heard the news by now - at least if you live in this part of the world. Iowa's egg industry has been responsible for some really nasty illnesses lately. Mind you, this is not a problem with my eggs! No way! I have been eating eggs from my hens for over 2 years now, and have never had any sort of gastro-intestinal problem. In fact, you know what?! I keep my eggs ON THE COUNTER! That's right - not in the refrigerator! Oh, the shock! The travesty! The shame!!!
When a hen lays an egg, she deposits a layer of "mucoprotein" on the eggshell. Mucoprotein? Ewwww... what's that?! It's a thin layer of protein composed of mucopolysaccharides! Muco-what? Ok, simply put, it's a layer that the hen's body deposits on the outside of the eggshell. This protein layer protects the egg by preventing bacteria from entering through the pores (tiny holes) in the eggshell. Mucopolysaccharides also exist in the fluid that keep your knees working properly! They are entirely safe and healthy! Sometimes, this layer is referred to as the "bloom" on the egg.
I don't wash my eggs. I leave them alone, on the counter, with their bloom intact. I gently brush off hay bits or feathers. If an egg is really dirty, I gently wash it and put it in the fridge. When I use an egg, from the counter, I wash it immediately before use. This means that the egg is clean, and there is no way for surface contamination to affect the egg contents when I break it open. It also means that bacteria have about a 30 second window, if that, to contaminate my egg. Ha! Fat chance!! I have left eggs on the counter, at room temperature, for over a month. No problems have occurred.
So back to Iowa. What's going on with those eggs anyway? Well, I took a course in Animal Law earlier in the summer, so I can tell you exactly what's going on with those eggs. First of all, the hens in the egg batteries in Iowa are kept in conditions that are apparently acceptable to the egg industry. What sort of conditions are those, you might wonder? Well, by law, they can be kept in cages that are stacked up to 4 levels in height. That means that the hens on level 3 are pooped on by the hens on level 4. It also means that the hens on level 2 are pooped on by the hens on levels 3 and 4. Finally, the hens on the dreaded level 1, are pooped on by hens on levels 2, 3 and 4! Those poor hens are often in cages that are so filthy and poop-filled that they get their legs stuck. See the pale, floppy combs on these hens? Not healthy. Not at all normal. They should be red and perky looking. The bright red things you can see are plastic water drippers.