The recent problems with salmonella-contaminated eggs is a reminder of how much more needs to be done to keep dangerous germs out of the American food supply.
— New York Times editorial
Here at Mill Valley Farms, we have our own way of ensuring that our eggs safe for consumption, without the use of chemicals or pharmaceuticals. As is the case with so many diseases, we believe salmonella is psychological in nature — if a hen knows she’s nothing but a hen with no future beyond supplying the world with breakfast, why wouldn’t she pop out a bunch of diseased eggs?
Our process begins at each hen’s birth. Upon hatching, the chick is moved to a pleasant room with subdued lighting and frequent gourmet predigested meals. They are also attended to by clinical hypnotists and psychiatrists who work to break down their conventional chicken sensibilities. During these formative months, our future egg-bearers hardly know that they have only two limbs, let alone that they are poultry.
In young adulthood, the hens move into income-restricted lofts in downtown Davenport, Iowa. Each hen is then enrolled in the local community college and required to maintain a 2.5 grade point average. Those that do poorly are sent to other more traditional farms. Those that do exceptionally well become dental assistants and phlebotomists.
The ones that we keep continue living in their lofts until they lay their first eggs, an event that is often devastating. All along the hen has considered herself capable of achieving anything she puts her mind to, when suddenly reality comes crashing down on her–she’s just a chicken in a human’s world. For this reason, many of our hens only produce one or two eggs before attending group therapy, and, eventually, working in the front office.
Meanwhile, the eggs are removed immediately from the presence of their birthing hens and painted red or orange and hung respectively in apple and peach orchards. We’ve found this identity confusion to be an effective salmonella deterrent. In fact it is sometimes too effective –we’ve received a few questions and concerns about why our eggs are “so tart” or how they got “seeds and pits in them.” For this reason, we are currently at work on a process to weed out eggs that might be too receptive to the apple/peach lifestyle.
Once the eggs are “picked” and the colors are washed off, we do one final test for salmonella before distribution. In the past we selected one or two eggs at random out of each batch and took a yolk sample. But, after a few allegations of profiling on our part, we’ve scrapped this method. Now we conduct hard-hitting interview with more than fifty intense, emotionally strenuous questions, so that any contaminated eggs would crack under the pressure.
We’ve had our fair share of road bumps along the way–like when one of our former hens blogged about her experiences at Mill Valley (and eventually received a book deal), sending the loft-dwellers into hysterics before they even laid their first eggs–but at the end of the day, we can rest easy, because we know our eggs are safe. Except for the one batch that a former employee jokingly painted as grenades. We’d like to, once again, apologize to the families that purchased those eggs and were subsequently detained and interrogated by Homeland Security.
Sean Adams is a humor writer living in the Midwest. His work has been featured on McSweeney’s, The Bygone’s Bureau, and elsewhere.