December 09, 2013

Chicken or the Egg?

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We now have an answer based on scientific facts. In February 2010, British scientists reported that a protein found only in a chickens ovary is necessary for the formation of the egg. According to scientists, the egg can only exist if it has been created inside a chicken! The protein is the basis for development of the shell. Those with inquiring minds are now asking, “well where did the chicken come from initially?” Hint: read your Bible.

Where am I going with this? Knowing where the chickens are raised, how the eggs are handled, and how they are transported and stored are very important when deciding where to purchase your eggs.

In 2007, it was found that 83% of fresh, whole broiler chickens bought nationwide contained campylobacter or salmonella, the leading causes of food borne disease. Prior studies have shown organic, pastured chickens are far less contaminated with the antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. In fact, conventional chicken products were found to be up to 460 times more likely to contain antibiotic resistant strains than antibiotic free chicken products.

This means the precautions on handling grocery store chicken products is wisely heeded.

Anything reaching the outside of an egg can make its way into the egg through the semipermeable membrane shell. When egg laying chickens are crammed into very little spaces, and not allowed to scratch and dust themselves freely outside, you increase the likelihood of eggs contacting feces and bacteria for prolonged periods of time.

Naturally one would think that buying organic eggs is the best. That is partially correct. It is true that, in one study, more than 23% of farms with caged hens tested positive for salmonella. This was just 4% for organic flocks. Organic flocks are typically smaller than the huge commercial flocks where bacteria seem to flourish.
Organic eggs have been proven to have a much higher nutrient content than commercially raised eggs. This is most likely due to the differences in their diet. Therefore, choosing between organic eggs and non-organic supermarket eggs is obvious.

The problem is that you still need to be wary of organic supermarket eggs because of how they may be handled after they have been harvested.

There are vast differences in how eggs are processed and handled, even under the ‘organic’ label. It is standard industry process to wash eggs with a chlorine bath. Depending on how that is done, the process can damage the natural outer protective cuticle. Obviously, the industry knows this, so they sometimes try to replace that cuticle which Mother Nature put there for good reason. Often times, mineral oil is coated on them. This is like putting preservatives in processed foods. Remember, what’s on your egg goes into your egg, from chlorine wash to mineral oil to dish soap…to salmonella.

Your local farmer probably doesn’t use this heavy handed process and likely only gently washes the eggs before they get sold. This is ideal.

We’ve covered where the chickens are raised and how they are processed, and now we move to how they are stored. This section may challenge some long held beliefs which aren’t easily overcome.

The question I pose is this, “Do you really need to refrigerate your eggs?” The answer is that it depends on which type of egg you have purchased. The guidelines in the EU state that eggs should be transported and stored at as consistent a temperature as possible –between 66.2* F and 69.8* F in the winter and 69.8* F and 73.4* F in the summer. This shows that despite what you’ve been taught, it is perfectly safe to not refrigerate eggs that are fresh and have an intact cuticle, as nature has intended.

In the US, refrigeration became the norm when mass production caused eggs to travel long distances and sit in storage for weeks to months before consumption. The general lack of cleanliness of large egg houses (those with 1 to 5 million chickens) has increased the likelihood of contacting pathogens, amplifying the need for disinfection and refrigeration.

So, IF you eggs are very fresh, and IF their cuticle is intact, you do not HAVE to refrigerate them. Shelf life is the bottom line. The shelf life of unrefrigerated eggs is 7 to 10 days, refrigerated eggs last 30 to 45 days. Eggs from the grocery store are generally already three weeks old or older. The carton has a pack date and a sell by date. Realize that the eggs were often laid days prior to the packing date. Most grocery store eggs should be kept refrigerated.

Eggs are highly nutritious, and should be eaten regularly. Unlike what doctors have said for years, eggs do not raise cholesterol concerns. In fact, they reduce bad cholesterol by supporting the production of good cholesterol. A survey of South Carolina adults found NO correlation of blood cholesterol levels with “bad” dietary habits (as defined by conventional medicine), such as eating red meat, animal fats, fried foods, butter, eggs, whole milk, bacons, sausage and cheese. That sounds like real food to me.

Ideally, you should eat the yolks raw or soft boiled to retain the most nutrients. Raw eggs must be organic pastured eggs. I’d never eat a store bought egg raw.

Now go find a local egg seller for the best eggs money can buy. Make sure the chickens have room to roam, the eggs are gently washed and they are stored at a consistent temperature. Eat all the eggs you can, they are the perfect food.