It was no surprise that the Humane Society of the United States would use the massive salmonella egg recall this week to crow about its agenda on cage-free eggs. It’s also no surprise that the “facts” they are touting are a bit egg-zaggerated.
“Eggs from caged birds have been found to be significantly more likely to pose a Salmonella threat than cage-free eggs,” states HSUS chief Wayne Pacelle, with complete authority, noting that “nine studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella rates in cage and cage-free egg operations found higher rates in the cage confinement facilities.”
HumaneWatch was quick to point out that the HSUS view of some of those studies is a bit scrambled. For example, the 2005 study cited by HSUS, found that the main risk factors for salmonella were flock size, housing system, and farm with hens of different ages and concluded “the system with the lowest chance of infection was the cage system with wet manure.”
Another study cited by HSUS from 2008 says right at the beginning that “No significant differences could be found in prevalence of Salmonella between laying hens reared in conventional and enriched cages and aviary (free range).”
Nearly all of the studies found that the incidence of salmonella was higher in the summer time, and that it was closely linked to ingestion of dust or feces by the birds, which is often more likely in a free range environment. Yeah, chickens eat their poop – which is not just gross, it can lead to all kinds of diseases, including salmonella.
Just to be clear – no one is defending the producers responsible for the tainted eggs. The safety and security of our nation’s food supply is the number one concern of anyone involved in agriculture, yet no one denies there are some bad eggs. But, it’s kind of like getting a carton of eggs home and finding out that you have a broken one. Maybe you didn’t check the carton before you bought it, or maybe it broke on the way home. But, you don’t throw the whole carton out. You just get rid of that egg and vow to be more careful next time. That’s what we have to do in this situation. We have to find out what went wrong and do what we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.