Thursday, May 5, 2011

Speaking of Chickens, or You Are What You Eat

The other day I was speaking to Larry about farm projects when he told me that he thought he had gotten sick from eating farm eggs from another farmer. I suggested that it was unlikely that he had contracted salmonella, since it is rare for free-range chicken eggs to get it. Dear friend, Lynne, says these eggs are some of the most delicious eggs ever. We wondered what caused the uncomfortable reaction. They are from a terrific local farm, known for their good eggs.

A couple of days later, Larry told me that next time he tried to eat eggs, his throat got itchy and he started having allergic reactions.

"Pause!" I exclaimed. "Let me guess!"

Fish meal. Larry is deathly allergic to fish. Guess what is one of the ingredients in many of the healthier chicken foods? Fish meal. Mostly organic. A terrific source of protein, for chickens are omnivores, after all.

Fish meal.

But what person selling eggs at the farmer's market would think to list his or her chicken feed ingredients on the label on the egg carton? Besides, who cares what the chicken eats, right? Same with the cow and her milk or the hog and the sausage.

I was horrified to think what might happen to Larry if he ate a few more of those eggs. Or anyone else who had severe fish allergies. In a few days, Larry and Lynne are coming over to pick up a dozen of our chickens to raise their own omelets and you can bet that they will be reading the chicken feed label before they buy any old bag.

I don't think it is wrong to feed chickens fish meal. It is great for boosting omega-3 fatty acids. But I went out right away to check our feed bag, and sure enough, it has fish meal as the primary source of protein. You can bet that I will be asking our customers in the future if they have fish allergies before selling them our eggs. I will make a new label or print one out that tells exactly what is in our feed, since I am pretty proud of those healthy ingredients, anyway, but just because they are healthy doesn't mean they aren't potential allergens for someone out there.

Made me wonder if all these folks who are now allergic to milk or to eggs or other things might not be allergic to the actual eggs or whatever, but to the particular feeds the animals are consuming. If that were the case, different types of specialty feeds could be developed that would allow folks like Larry to eat those delicious and healthy foods that might otherwise be off limits. Hmm. Anyone know of any cool research going on dealing with these issues? Sounds like a great project for someone at Virginia Tech!


Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Ginger, that is exactly what I was thinking! I bet some people who think they're allergic to eggs or milk are really allergic to something that's fed to the chickens or cows. That could be really helpful for people to know this. said...

Hi Debi. Doesn't it make you wonder?? PS, have been praying that a buyer makes his or her way to your place SOON. We still don't have the place on the market yet, but soon. Still need to finish up a few things. The neverending list.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Thanks for the prayers Ginger. Things are going to SLOW. I have a half dozen people who've told me they'd like my place but none can buy it because they have to sell their own first. The only one who didn't have to sell her own house first couldn't get a mortgage. Banks not parting with the dough.