Many egg producers still not complying with food-sanitation rules
By Mattea Kramer, Saturday, October 1, 8:51 AM
Two-tenths of a penny per dozen. That’s what it costs Pennsylvania farmers to make eggs safer. By disinfecting henhouses, trapping rodents and testing regularly for harmful bacteria, the state’s egg farmers have cut the presence of salmonella by more than half.
But egg producers in much of the rest of the country haven’t followed suit. Last summer, two large Iowa producers recalled 500 million salmonella-tainted eggs — the largest egg recall in history. More than 1,900 people nationwide grew sick, causing alarm for consumers.
Millions of Americans suffer from foodborne illness each year. Michael Batz, head of food safety programs at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, calculates the cost of salmonella-contaminated eggs at $370 million a year. Salmonellosis is an infection that causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Batz factors in missed work, medical bills, victims’ assessments of how their illness harmed them (called “quality-adjusted life”) and premature deaths.
The non-monetary loss is also substantial. An estimated 115,000 people suffer this type of food poisoning each year, resulting in 42 fatalities, according to his estimates.
A dozen eggs in the supermarket is the easiest thing to just grab and go — no pulling a number, no bagging, no-brainer. Several decades ago, that was just fine, because most of what customers pulled from shelves were local eggs.
Today, if we care about where our food comes from, we don’t have the luxury of not paying attention. And anyone who pays attention has heard lots about sustainability, food safety and keeping money in the local economy.
But there are other reasons to buy local: to preserve the culture of Hawaii farms and support those who’ve put generations into providing sustenance to our community.
One such place is Petersons’ Upland Farm in Wahiawa, a longtime egg farm where a majestic hen house the length of a football field stands a story high on stilts. It is home to the farm’s more than 9,000 egg layers, who sit inside enjoying the tradewinds.
“My uncle designed that hen house and it amazes me every day,” says Sharon Peterson Cheape, the farm’s assistant manager. “My brother and I and my cousins helped with installation. We learned electrical, construction, installation and plumbing, all on that house.”
Peterson Cheape is the third generation of Petersons to run the farm, one of four remaining egg farms on Oahu. She’s a classic country girl: down-to-earth, generous, and kind to friends and strangers alike.
Oahu has four egg farms, three of which sell directly to customers. Visit www.islandfresheggs.com for more information.
» KK Poultry Farm Egg Store (41-656 Kakaina St., Waimanalo, 259-7832): 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays; 7:30 a.m. to noon Sundays
» Maili Moa Farm Egg Shop (87-136 Kaukamana Road, Waianae, 696-3823): 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 8 a.m. to noon Sundays
» Petersons’ Upland Farm (141 Dole Road, 621-6619): 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays
» Mikilua Poultry Farm: Supplies local supermarket under the brands Hawaiian Maid, Ka Lei, Maili and Times
» Eggs keep about three to four weeks in the refrigerator.
» Tell a fresh egg from an older one by cracking it open. If the white, called the albumen, stands up high, it is fresh; if the albumen spreads, it is likely an older egg.
» There is no nutritional difference between white and brown eggs. Brown eggs simply cost more because brown hens are bigger birds and eat more food to produce the same amount of eggs.
» Daily egg consumption is not linked to the risk of heart attack in healthy adults, probably because blood cholesterol, rather than dietary cholesterol, has the biggest impact on heart health. Cholesterol in the diet has only a minor effect on blood cholesterol level.
» Eggs are an excellent source of choline, a vital nutrient used by all cells in the body, especially brain cells that require it for neurotransmitter formation. Choline also contributes to fetal brain development — adequate intake of choline reduces the risk of birth defects.
Source: Sharon Peterson Cheape and Joannie Dobbs