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The Salmonella Egg Cure

Ivan Walsh

More than 500 million eggs have been recalled in the last week. Countless cases of salmonella poisoning have been linked to these eggs, most of them coming out of just five massively packed factories owned by Wright County Egg in Iowa—a frightful sight undoubtedly so disturbing that it would make Hitler look like Willy Wonka.

The condition most factory farm chickens live in is worse than any other factory-farmed animal. While chicken meat is often viewed as a healthier alternative to red meat or pork, nothing could be further from the truth. That is, unless you like your meat and your eggs loaded up with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and feces—yes, lots and lots of feces.

Hens naturally produce eggs—no males required—unlike cows or goats or sheep or giraffes, who, just like all mammals, will only produce milk when the female is at least 100% pregnant. Keeping an animal pregnant so that she's producing milk for your nonfat mocha latte is a lot more difficult than it sounds; but encouraging a hen to lay more eggs than she will naturally, is an even more challenging conundrum.

In their tiny home-is-worse-than-death-cage that hens endure for their short and miserable lives, chickens live stacked on top of each other. Their beaks are seared off without anesthetics so that they won't poke each others eyes out. Spreading a wing--let alone two--is kind of like you dreaming about winning the lottery and moving to a white sandy beach in the south pacific. The farmers don't care about the stress they put on the animals. All they care about is if they can squeeze another 12-pack of eggs out of an intelligent, curious and friendly bird who would much prefer a life clucking and dust bathing and caring for her young than the hellish practices nothing short of a nightmare, which would be considered criminal if ever done to humans.

Approximately 300 million egg-laying hens live in tiny cage spaces no bigger than the computer screen you're reading this on. Many of them will lay as many as 300 eggs every year. In 1945, the average number of eggs a hen laid was half of that. This is not natural evolution that has doubled their production, it's all those Frankenchemicals and genetic tricks practiced in a self-regulated industry to ensure more eggs in half the time.

From a humane perspective, eggs are actually the most ethical animal products to eat: hens lay them without being forcibly impregnated repeatedly; there is no killing involved; it doesn't hurt them or their ability to reproduce if you eat an unfertilized egg. However, hens are so heinously mistreated, it's dishonest to suggest that eating store bought factory farm raised eggs is anything but cruel, unnatural and completely unnecessary.

That's not even touching on the health risks you take with every bite.

If there were anything less likely than Americans giving up their Denny's Grand Slam breakfasts or Egg McMuffin, I have no idea what that would be. Certainly breaking our habit of eating eggs en masse is one way to stop the wide spread of infections like salmonella, but it is not realistic to even suggest. So, let's look at plan B: buy a hen. Actually, buy two or three, they're social animals. That's right. Want eggs? Go outside in your yard and get them.

Hens are fairly easy animals to care for. Travel to most any other country in the world and you'll see hens and roosters in yards as often as dogs or cats.They eat pests and fertilize your soil so you can also grow the spinach and peppers you put in your omelets. Chickens have personalities; they're intelligent and playful. A healthy hen raised outside of the confines of Eggschwitz will produce eggs higher in omega fats, beta-carotene, protein and other vital nutrients. More over, when you see where your food comes from, and when you taste the difference, what are the chances you can go back to eating the poisonous, flavorless products of needlessly tortured innocent creatures?

Many studies have concluded that when people have what appears to be a minor stomachache or intestinal discomfort, it's most likely not the flu, or a cold: it's mild salmonella poisoning. It's not just from eggs, either, but from all meat and dairy products grown in filth, slaughtered in filth and packaged in filth. Fruits and vegetables are at risk of contamination, too (remember the spinach recall of 2007?). But, it's not the spinach's fault. It's most usually linked to run-off from those massive factory farms nearby that leak waste into the water and soil causing otherwise healthy food to become deadly.

According to the American Egg Board, 75 billion eggs are produced in the US every year—by just 300 million chickens!—that’s' 250 eggs per chicken every year. If 1 million people ate 2 eggs per day from their own happy hens, that's almost 1% fewer eggs being produced in factory farms. And if 10 million people switched to their own home-raised eggs, that’s 10% fewer eggs produced in factory farms and 10% fewer outbreaks of salmonella. More over, people will be healthier because they're eating healthier and more active because of the care involved in raising hens. You might even find you're happier because you're healthier, too.

As the saying goes: don't put all your eggs in one basket. But that's exactly what we've been doing. The majority of eggs in this country come from those 300 million small, scared creatures who would happily give you eggs—salmonella free—if given the chance. Go on, count your chickens before they hatch, it may save your life.

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