The View From Rural Route #8
The radio station going in Saturday morning to the farmers’ market in Topeka was filled with both good bad egg jokes and bad good egg jokes.
All week prior I had been following the egg recall story, which had grown to two large Iowa egg producing companies and at least half a billion eggs in question and under recall. Just how does one recall eggs eaten only yesterday morning? If you recall how many you ate, can you send back the remaining eggs and claim you recollect eating the recalled eggs before you knew they were recalled, as far as you can recall, that is?
Seriously, the nation had just emerged finally during the past few years the long dark period of prejudice engendered by the fear of cholesterol in eggs. The ham-handed approach 30 years ago was to condemn eggs and other great foods as too much laden with cholesterol. People stopped eating them. No distinction in those days was made between good cholesterol and its bad brother. No caveats were offered about what a low percentage effect dietary intake had on cholesterol numbers in the body, which manufactures most of it, and no consideration was given to individuals and what levels they might have inherited as normal for them.
By the time the egg lovers re-emerged to build back the market, most of the old mom and pop egg farms with 20,000 layers or so were out of business. There used to be a string of those farms between Topeka and southeastern Nebraska. All gone.
I visited with my egg woman vendor friend and colleague on the farmers’ market board about the latest scare. She had sold out almost instantly of the brown eggs that her red chickens that free roam her farmstead lay. She laughed and said her husband had suggested going to $10 a dozen (he was just joking) to take advantage of the problem.
She had done some biology homework, noting that the salmonella was probably imparted to the eggs from the inside out, yolks first, as the eggs are built as they move through the egg works passage inside the chickens. The shell is put on last to complete the egg.
Sometimes salmonella comes from what animals eat. In other words, perhaps a layman’s conjectures would include feed contamination as a real possible culprit.
To chicken and egg lovers, this is a sad disaster. In nature, everything loves to eat eggs, even the birds that lay them. That’s because eggs are such a complete food easily handled by bodies. After this scare dies down, I’m not going to be afraid to order eggs in restaurants. Until then, I’ll be content with mine at home, where they get plenty of fresh air, varied diet ranging from bugs to seeds to scraps from our kitchen, sunshine, water and exercise walking around scratching the ground for things.
One major precaution in the summer heat, though, is to find the eggs promptly and put them in the cooler. I hope the industry recovers from this, but I also wish the industry would support small operations that might be less efficient in some areas, but utterly caring in other hands-on departments. And, what could be less efficient than having to recall 500 million eggs, and worse, taking away the public appetite for eggs indefinitely?
Jim Suber is an award-winning farm, ranch, and rural life columnist residing on Rural Route No. 8, Topeka.
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