Wright County Egg is a bad actor, to be sure. According to the NYTimes, the company has had "run-ins with regulators over poor or unsafe working conditions, environmental violations, the harassment of workers and the hiring of illegal immigrants." They also keep their chickens in the kind of CAFO conditions you're used to hearing about: grossly overcrowded cages, artificial lights, ammonia fumes that could knock you over. A 2008 survey by the UK Soil Association, which certifies food in Britain as organic, found large flocks of caged hens were 19 percent more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella than organically raised hens and 17 percent more likely to be contaminated than free-range or pastured hens. Whether the same would hold true in the US egg industry is unclear, but the Association did find that rates of Salmonella were directly proportional to the size of the flock. The larger the flock, the more likely the hens were to be contaminated.
So, even though Peggy, Joan & Betty will have only the teeny tiniest chance of laying salmonella contaminated eggs, I've started learning about proper sanitation to prevent even that tiny chance of getting ourselves or whomever is lucky enough to eat our eggs sick.
How to prevent salmonella in your backyard flock
- Collect eggs often.
- Keep the coop clean! Salmonella is passed around in chicken poop. So get the poop out as often as possible.
- Keep the ladies healthy by feeding them well, keeping the dry, and finding a good vet to help.
- Practice biosecurity.
- Wash, wash, wash your hands, for the love of god.
- "Don't wash off the bloom from the egg. If the egg is soiled, you can use a dry, stiff nail brush, fine sandpaper or a rough pan scour pad to remove manure that might have caked on. Only wash the eggs before you use them and in warm water. Do this only as a last resort. Dirty eggs might be covered with bacteria, which have trouble getting through the shell so long as it's dry. As soon as the shell is wet with cold water, the pores of the shell opens and germs pass through more easily. And then, as the egg cools even more the contents shrink a little, causing a partial vacuum inside that tends to suck foreign matter into the egg."(from Barnyardsandbackyards.org)