Naturally, I am appalled that the Foster Farms is getting lauded for reducing their salmonella rate to 10% in one of their cockroach infested factories (industry standard rate, according to the NBCNEWS article is a whopping 25%). But that got me wondering, what is normal in a farmstead situation? Other than practicing normal good hygiene, is there anything else to do to lower the rate?
I just ordered chicks from Mt. Healthy Hatchery, which had a salmonella outbreak last year. I figure their system is now more closely monitored than most, so I'm not worried. If you order enough chicks, they will send you a free CDC poster on sanctioned safe handling practices. Most important: no kissing the chicks.
Got that? NO KISSING the chicks. Think any of the Foster Farms chicks have ever been kissed?
(I wrote this for my blog, copying here for the valuable permie.com community input.)
Fact: the CDC estimates that 1 in 10,000 eggs is infected with salmonella
Fact: a chicken infected with salmonella is a generally sick bird
Fact: chickens can have salmonella in their digestive/oviduct canals and be asymptomatic.
Assumption: no sick birds are contributing eggs to the food supply that the CDC based its numbers on.
Calculation: if 1 in 10,000 birds is asymptomatic, and if I culled my sick birds, I would need to raise 25 birds for 40 years to give a statistical certainty that I would contract salmonella. I would have to raise them for 20 years to reach a probability greater than 50%. This assumes that the 1 in 10,000 number comes from 10,000 layers contributing 1 egg per day.
Fact: contracting salmonella is no fun. I've had it twice (restaurant food both times)
Fact: the 1 in 10,000 number does not account for how the bird is raised.
Fact: the CDC's job is to protect hapless Americans from their own foolishness, like warning people against allowing their children to play with plastic bags.
Query: are you an observant homesteader or a parent who allows their children to play with plastic bags?
My birds are raised in optimal conditions; I don't worry about salmonella from my eggs or compost. I exercise strict procedures during slaughter and cook them properly to mitigate my risks from processing. However, even though I don't worry for myself, when I feed my 91 year old neighbor, someone for whom salmonella would be life threatening, I make certain the eggs, meat and any raw dairy are properly cooked.
I'm not saying do what I do. I'm saying don't let a system designed to protect us from all risks (which is impossible anyway) because we have allowed our society to become so litigious, rule your food choices through fear. Investigate those facts, and assess my statistics. Based on facts, you get to make your own decision.