I’ve recently been accused of trying to poison my kids be feeding them ice cream I made that had a couple of raw eggs in it. If we’re being honest, I feel like you should know they also swipe cookie dough from the bowl before it’s been baked, lick the beaters after I make brownies, and love to scrape the bowl clean with their fingers after I’ve made a cake.
Oh, and their breakfast eggs? Yeah, those have some runny yolks. We probably shouldn’t talk about how much they love a soft boiled egg with toast soldiers, either.
You see, if my girls were eating eggs from the grocery this wouldn’t happen. They’d have rock hard yolks and smacked fingers. But I don’t buy my eggs from the store. I walk out my door, through a gate and to the chicken house. There, wonder of all wonders, 8 eggs await me each day. Sometimes my hens get a wild hair and I have to search their enclosure to find some hidden eggs, but I don’t mind. It’s like an impromptu Easter Egg Hunt.
Are we still being honest? Here’s another shocker: I rarely wash my eggs. Oh, and I don’t refrigerate them, either. I know, I know. It doesn’t sound like I’m making much of an effort to stand up for myself against the raw-egg naysayer, does it? Stick with me here, I’m taking you places!
I feel completely comfortable with our raw- and under cooked egg practices around here and I’m going to tell you why. Maybe by the time I’m done, you’ll be comfortable with it, too.
1) Flock Health– While it isn’t going to be something that I can tell 100% just by looking at my hens, knowing the symptoms that hens infected with Salmonella tend to exhibit it is completely within my abilities as a backyard poultry producer. Sick hens are lethargic, look weak, their wattles and combs will turn a purplish color and they’ll have some seriously evident green or yellow diarrhea. These symptoms don’t always immediately mean “SALMONELLA!!!” but they are good indicators that you have a problem. A vet can give you a firm diagnosis.
Because I interact with my hens multiple times daily, I’m intimately aware of how they look and act. I can tell you immediately if something is wrong. My hens are happy, active, vigorous, and show no symptoms AT ALL of carrying Salmonella. Salmonella runs rampant through factory farms because of the cramped and foul conditions the hens are kept in. Let’s be honest- if a hen is in a cage all day how can you tell if she’s not looking right? If she’s pooping where hundreds of other birds poop, how can you tell if it looks normal? That’s right, you can’t. Disease is passed from one bird to another, right down the line until they are all infected or running a risk of becoming infected. These eggs obviously shouldn’t be consumed raw, just like milk from huge dairies shouldn’t be, either. Reaching a temperature that kills the bacteria is a must in both of these instances, through thorough cooking or pasteurization.
2) My eggs are collected and used quickly– usually within just a couple of days. Our hens have sparkly clean laying boxes and loads of room with grasses and other nesting materials available should they decide not to lay in a nesting box. Why is that important? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, because our eggs are pretty clean, we don’t have to wash them (no poop)! Second, by skipping the washing, we leave the natural “bloom” on the egg. This prevents bacteria from making it’s way into the egg and causing a problem. Because I don’t have to wash the bloom off of my egg, I don’t have to refrigerate them.
Factory eggs are washed because I can only imagine how filthy they are and what they encounter before they are plopped down on the conveyor belt to be cleaned and packaged. The natural bloom is washed off, therefore making it easy for little wee beasties to make their way into the egg. And trust me, there are some nasty little beasties present in a commercial laying facility. Ick!
3) Our eggs are handled in a safe way. They are collected, placed in a basket on the counter and then USED in a timely manner. I never have a bunch of 3-4 week old eggs laying around because I use them! They don’t have a chance to get old and aren’t given the opportunity to become a biological hazard. They’re enjoyed!
4) We keep our coop and hen house vermin free. Since Salmonella is spread by the little four legged critters I’d rather not have around, we keep our feed in a tightly closed metal garbage can, keep the laying boxed squeaky clean and make sure we don’t have any other vermin-friendly places or food sources hanging around.
5) We practice bio security so we aren’t tracking through someone else’s coop and back to ours. We don’t wear the same shoes or clothing in other coops and then into our own. We have a pair of shoes specifically for our own coop that are worn nowhere else. We take the safety and health of our chickens very seriously!
So, to sum it up for you: I know my chickens. I know their habits, I know what they are fed, I know how they are raised, housed, and treated. I know when that egg was laid-no joke, my daughter writes on them with a grease pencil, marking the date so the oldest get used first. I know everything about my chickens, right down to how normal their poop looks. We’re tight, my hens and I.
Do I feel comfortable feeding my kids a raw egg now and then? Absolutely. Would I feed them ice cream made with a raw egg from the store? Not a chance. We all have to make choices for our families. My choices won’t always be the choices that you would make, but they aren’t just choices that I randomly pick out of thin air. My kids like to have a runny yolked egg for breakfast to dip their toast in- should I deny them that pleasure because we’re told that eggs aren’t safe to consume under cooked? Or should I take a look at what makes those factory eggs unsafe and choose to raise my hens in the completely opposite manner? I make my choice by looking at all of the information, weighing it my head, weeding out the stuff that just doesn’t apply, and choosing the best option for my family. I choose to eat fresh, healthy, delicious foods and sometimes that means a raw or under cooked egg or two.
I’m OK with it.
How do you feel about the raw egg issue? Are you a toast dipper, too?
For more reading, check out these articles:
S is For Salmonella
Protect Your Birds /
Biosecurity Practices for Animals
Getting Rid Of Rats In the Coop
Homemade Ice Cream Using Raw Eggs
Top Chicken Diseases and Natural Treatments