Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thoughts About the Salmonella Scare

By now, you're probably checking your egg cartons over the entire salmonella/egg thing.  Some of you are probably sighing and thinking that it isn't a big deal because you cook your eggs.  (Yes, I know -- I cook my eggs too).

Hawk, my lovely Easter Egger
I think the main issue with salmonella isn't that people eat raw eggs (although some do), but that there's 1.  a basic problem with what constitutes a cooked egg and 2.  the chance for cross contamination.  I don't like overdone eggs, just like I don't like overdone meat -- and yet, if you follow the government's guidelines for what constitutes "safe food," you'll get well done steaks and hamburger and rubbery eggs.  I like my eggs "over easy" and don't like them cooked the way the government tells me to cook them. 

The second and more important point is the problem with cross contamination.  When you handle eggs, do you wash your hands all the time after touching them?  What about touching the egg and then touching the handle to the spatula?  Do you wash the utensils you use while cooking so that a less cooked portion of the egg doesn't contaminate the cooked portions?  You might, but I would bet a lot of people aren't as careful.

Growing up, I don't remember so many food poisoning scares.  I ate eggs sunny side up and rare steaks and never got sick from them.  Only when the food was switched from small farms to big agricultural businesses did I notice a problem with the quality of meats and produce.  I kept switching stores back when we lived in Colorado in the hopes of getting meat that we wouldn't get ill off of.  When I moved to Montana, my husband and I pretty much stopped getting food poisoning when I started buying food from local farmers. 

I have tried to stay away from big business food stores and to buy organic.  I find that organic and local food tastes better, is fresher, and we're less likely to have problems with it.  I understand the need for large food distribution systems and the need to feed a large number of people, but the engineer in me is frustrated over our agricultural systems' single points of failure which puts the entire country at risk when something goes wrong. 

I don't have an answer for the world, but I do have an answer for myself -- and that is my own chickens.  The eggs are awesome and the meat is just as good.  And I know how they've been handled.

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