Backyard chickens are trending in South Carolina, and they don’t just live in the country anymore. Plenty of city dwellers are carving out backyard space to raise chickens, and to great benefit. Chickens make interesting pets and provide a constant supply of fresh eggs.
As this trend grows it is important to make sure that chicken owners are following solid food safety practices. Shell eggs have a strong association with salmonella. Salmonella is bacteria that live in the intestinal track of humans and animals, including birds. It is a foodborne pathogen that causes illness. Salmonella can easily contaminate shell eggs because chicken eggs exit the chicken’s body through the same pathway as its feces. But not to worry! If shell eggs are collected, cleaned, and stored properly salmonella and other harmful pathogens will be removed, leaving a safe and wholesome egg.
Here’s How to Make Sure Your Backyard Eggs are Safe & High Quality
Personal Hygiene: Wash your hands. Clean hands are always the first step in food safety.
Collecting: Gather eggs at least twice a day. Morning collection is preferred and during hot weather gather three times a day if possible. Collection containers should be cleaned between uses to prevent cross contamination. Discard eggs that have cracks on the shell.
Cleaning and Sanitizing: Start with a thorough egg cleaning. Remove visible dirt with fine sandpaper or a soft scrub brush. If the eggs still appear dirty they can be washed with a mild, unscented, non-foaming dish detergent and potable water. When washing it is crucial to use water that is at least 20 degrees warmer than the egg. That will help prevent the porous eggshell from drawing in any microscopic contaminants that are lingering on the surface. Next, sanitize the egg. This is done by dipping eggs into a sanitizing solution. The solution is prepared by adding 1 tablespoon of unscented household bleach to a gallon of water. Lastly, rinse and dry the eggs before storage.
Storing: Refrigerate the eggs as soon as possible at a 33o – 41o F. Store in clean containers, in an area of the refrigerator that will prevent cross contamination from other foods. Add the date collected to the containers and use within 45 days for best quality.
Random Sidenote: What came first, the chicken or the egg?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture the egg came first.
“Eggs existed long before chickens,” according to On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. “The first eggs were released, fertilized, and hatched in the ocean. Around 250 million years ago, the earliest fully land-dwelling animals, the reptiles, developed a self-contained egg with a tough, leathery skin that prevented fatal water loss. The eggs of birds, animals that arose some 100 million years later, are a refined version of this reproductive adaptation to life on land. Eggs, then, are millions of years older than birds. Gallus domesticus, the chicken more or less as we know it, is only a scant 4 or 5 thousand years old.”