Cook Your Eggs Thoroughly. Even Better: Buy Happy Eggs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an egg recall yesterday for millions of eggs distributed by Wright County Egg  because of the potential for Salmonella enteritidis (SE). This recall is in addition to an August 13 recall by the same company.

About Wright County Egg

Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, is part of the DeCoster family agribusiness operations, which have already been cited with several past violations , says USA Today:

  • The founder, Austin Jackson DeCoster, pleaded guilty to federal immigration charges in 2003 and paid a record $2.1 million in penalties.
  • In 2002, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission imposed a $1.5 million penalty for mistreatment of female workers, including charges of rape, sexual harassment and other abuse.
  • In 2001, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that DeCoster, a repeat violator of state environmental laws, could finance, but not build, hog confinement operations for his son, Peter DeCoster, who is now closely involved with the Wright County egg operations.
  • Earlier this year, the elder DeCoster paid a fine to settle state animal cruelty charges against his egg operations in Maine.

(For more details, read this report from

About Salmonella

According to the USDA, Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis or arthritis.

Eggs affected by the expanded recall were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers and food service companies in California, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. These companies distribute nationwide.

The eggs are packaged under the following brand names: Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma, Lund, Kemps and Pacific Coast. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 229 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942.

Eggs under the August 13, 2010 recall are packaged under the following brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946.
There have been confirmed Salmonella enteritidis illnesses relating to the shell eggs and traceback investigations are ongoing.

As a precautionary measure, Wright County Egg also has decided to divert its existing inventory of shell eggs from the recalled plants to a breaker, where they will be pasteurized to kill any Salmonella bacteria present.

How do eggs become infected with Salmonella? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella silently infects the ovaries of healthy appearing hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed.

Factory Farm Eggs or Happy Eggs?

But there’s good news: According to Rodale, a British study done in 2008 indicated smaller, pastured flocks of egg-laying hens were less likely to be infected than larger, caged flocks.

Need I say more? I’m happy to stick with my local, pastured happy-egg-laying hens from Grassfields.

If you’re not buying from your local organic egg farmer, make sure you cook your eggs thoroughly!

(For an interesting comparison of factory farm versus happy farm, check out this blog post, “Little Drops of Poison,” from Soul Food Farm in Vacaville, California.)

August 20, 2010 UPDATE

The New York Times reported on August 20 that another recall was initiated by an Iowa egg producer, Hillandale Farms, which claims it purchased pullets (young birds) and feed from a company run by the DeCoster family. Read more about this fiasco in The Times.


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