Know Your Chicken Farmer's Name? That May Be the Best Protection Against Salmonella

Brother cooks his brother-in-law's excellent eggs
Brother cooks his brother-in-law's excellent eggs

Here's my fine brother working toward an egg sandwich, using eggs from his brother-in-law's flock in beautiful Wayne County.

Elmwood Stock Farm eggs
Elmwood Stock Farm eggs
Elmwood Stock Farm eggs
Elmwood Stock Farm eggs

And these are the beautiful eggs I buy weekly: Elmwood Stock Farm's certified organic eggs, raised on Kentucky pasture about 12 miles from my house.

One of Elmwood Stock Farm's Chicken Tractors
One of Elmwood Stock Farm's Chicken Tractors

Here is where Elmwood's hens peck and eat and store up the nutrients needed to produce those eggs: on grass -- with fresh grass always coming right up, thanks to the "chicken tractor" production method--and with protection from extreme weather and from nighttime predators.

I'm neither farmer, food inspector nor food policy expert -- and there are no guarantees --  but I am unafraid to eat Hollandaise sauce I make myself from Elmwood eggs, or soft-scrambled eggs that were laid in the backyards of any of my downtown neighbors who have urban hens. It's about numbers. If Elmwood Stock Farm raised 20,000 hens, or 200,000, 0r 2,000,000,000 -- I would be concerned.

Although in theory salmonella can infiltrate eggs in small-scale, excellent farming operations or backyard henhouses, that's so unlikely that I never worry about licking a beater after making a cake batter -- as long as I know the eggs' source: either friends' backyard layers or sustainably grown local eggs from producers I know by name. Hens don't get ill as readily in these situations.

It's eggs from crowded, confined, giga-gigantic operations that I consider scary - all the time, not just now. I don't eat under-cooked eggs in restaurants or at other people's homes, unless I know a LOT about the source of the eggs. This precaution seems simple common sense to me, akin to washing hands before meals.

My brother said yesterday that he didn't expect his brother-in-law had issued many egg recalls in the last few days. That's the point, isn't it? I haven't heard of any small farms that raise eggs sustainably issuing any recalls, either. And I don't expect I will. There are no absolute guarantees about these matters, but we can choose sources where we expect hens, eggs, and land to be abundantly healthy. That makes sense for our own health, for our local farm economies, and for the health of the planet.

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