As part of the "natural is better" movement, many Americans -- particularly those who live in the city and know absolutely nothing about agriculture -- have decided that playing farmer is a fun pastime. It certainly can be a fun hobby... that is, until the vomiting and diarrhea begin.
The CDC reports that 10 separate Salmonella outbreaks, affecting 48 states and DC, has sickened 790 people and hospitalized at least 174. The outbreaks have been linked to hatcheries where people handled ducklings and chicks.
Chickens and other poultry can carry Salmonella. Not only can this pathogen be found in their feces and environment, it can also be found on egg shells. That's why, according to Live Science, the USDA implemented shell cleaning measures in the 1970s to help reduce the likelihood of a Salmonella infection.
The risk, however, does not end with a clean egg shell. Salmonella can also get inside the egg. If the hen's ovaries are infected, she can lay eggs with Salmonella on the inside. The hen may look and act healthy, too, so there's no way of knowing if she's plopping out little time bombs.
This entire story illustrates the fallacy of the "back to nature" or "farm-to-table" movement. Just because you know where your food comes from doesn't mean it's any healthier. As it turns out, there's a really good reason why we have "processed food": It makes the food safer for us to consume.
So, here's some advice for you ambitious urban cowboys out there: Wash your hands after you touch your chickens. Cook your eggs thoroughly. And be on the lookout for predators. If you live in the wrong part of town, a hawk just might swoop in for a snack. Your precious little chickens might last a morning, but by afternoon, the survivors would be asking not to be free-range anymore.
Source: "Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Live Poultry in Backyard Flocks, 2017." CDC. Published: 13-Jul-2017.
Source: Remy Melina. "How Does Salmonella Get Inside Eggs?" Live Science. Published: 18-Aug-2010.