Eggs with a bit of extra’s….not so safe or healthy !

Did you ever consider that your newest hobby, the keeping of chickens, would be potentially dangerous ?

No, I’m not talking about feedback from the neighbors about the noise or odor but rather the increased lead content and more in your food source.

Tidbit:

Did you know that the amount of light during the day  is the key to the frequency of chickens laying eggs ?   As guessed the summer months are typically the best.

Lead

Let’s start the conversation with a clear understanding that no level of lead is safe, period. Yes, we all ingest some level of lead in our water and food daily, however, the key here is to minimize the amount. No reputable scientist will disagree with the concept that lead injures our neurological system and it’s that much more dangerous during fetal and childhood development. Curiously birds unlike humans have no lead level guidelines.

In an Australian study, done in August of 2022,  they found that “About 51 percent of the eggs we tested exceeded the “food safe” threshold of 100 µg/kg.”   This same study showed up to a 40X higher than store bought egg lead level. Clearly really dangerous and not safe to say the least. Now I appreciate that many will say it’s specific to their country. So far from the truth as there have been multiple studies including in the states.

A number of studies have not conclusively shown that there should be a concern with keeping chickens.  Its all about their environment and their exposure.  In a New York study, the levels were lower but clearly indicated a substantial difference between regions in the city. Their conclusion, “Even with a relatively small number of samples (58 urban eggs), our results clearly demonstrate that the concentration of lead in soil to which chickens are exposed is an important determinant of lead concentrations in eggs “.

So where’s the contamination coming from, typically the soil.    But that’s only part of the story.

Soil

Do you know what’s in your soil ? Probably not, as most of us think that the “organic” natural soil in our garden and other areas is probably safe and low in toxic metals. What’s in your home soil can be a large collection of fertilizers and pesticides from overspray or the water supply or was the soil by chance fill dirt brought in from somewhere else ?

No, I’m not trying to get you alarmed, just cautious and curious. The more you know about your soil the safer the environment for you and your pets. Only way to be certain concerning of the actual contents of your soil, is to check with a laboratory test.

The bagged soil industry is a 2.14 billion dollar industry (2021) with limited regulations. As an example, if you’re in California only the products that contain fertilizers are checked for those chemicals however, not for toxins including lead or arsenic. That’s probably an additive problem at worst, as it turns out that many soil additives and other components (fertilizers and more) may have added to the toxic burden.

The organic material you see advertised on the bags can and typically consist of bark, that may be chemically removed, from seed and rice hulls to pecan and walnut shells and don’t forget the peat moss, coconut coir,  kelp meal and perlite. Then add the bat guano, chicken poop, fish stuff or other animal manure and you get the picture. The bag of garden soil can be any mix of 1000’s of products. And the real issue is that it may never be tested.  Assuming it is tested only random checks are done . Back in 2014, 28% of soil products failed the bagged claims and remember we are not even talking about toxins.

As an option, you can look for the OMRI-tested (Organic and certified products) which do have to meet standards including low lead levels.

The good news in a test of big box store soil there were generally at low lead amounts at or below the concerning limits. However, there were other contaminants to consider.See this article by the researchers at Oregon State University, Herbicide-Contaminated Compost and Soil Mix: What You Should Know — and What You Can Do About It.”

Water

Was your home built in 1978 or earlier. ? If so have you taken the time to check the water. The potential for a lead issue is high with older buildings, but what about the fixtures (spouts, faucets and more) even in your newer home ?  Water testing should be done if your home in a low mineral of high acidity water location. If you’rere watering your poultry with a hose is it PVC or other plastic ? Could be adding to the flock’s toxic load.

 

Did you know that some of the largest outbreaks of this bacteria have happened from home-raised poultry ?  What many don’t appreciate is that commercial poultry firms protect their birds against a variety of diseases by injecting vaccines into growing chicks while they are still in the egg. You can request to know what was done to the chicks you’re purchasing.

The regulations are all over the place so buyers be aware and ask. There is a certification program for hatcheries or breeders called the National Poultry Improvement Plan.  Their certification certifies that birds purchased from healthy breeder flocks are tested for severe diseases however, this does not guarantee birds are free of salmonella. A good starting point but not total safety.

Handling poultry is not the only way salmonella is spread, but according to the CDC, it is the most likely way to be exposed. Symptoms including fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea which will typically emerge after six hours but can take up to six days, after exposure

outbreak of salmonella