Preventing Bacteria in Chicken Meat and Eggs

Avoid becoming sick from salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli by learning how to safely clean, handle, cook and store meat and eggs from your chickens.

| April 2016

  • Chicken eggs
    Although most eggs produced in clean conditions and promptly refrigerated after collection pose little health risk, proper precautions should be taken to ensure that eggs remain fresh, delicious and bacteria-free.
    Photo by Elizabeth Cecil
  • Food-Borne Illness Chart
    Suspect food-borne illness? Use this chart to assess your symptoms and identify possible bacterial infections.
    Chart courtesy Storey Publishing
  • The Chicken Health Handbook
    "The Chicken Health Handbook: A Complete Guide to Maximizing Flock Health and Dealing with Disease" by Gail Damerow is full of detailed and accessible information to help chicken owners keep their birds disease-free and productive.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

  • Chicken eggs
  • Food-Borne Illness Chart
  • The Chicken Health Handbook

The Chicken Health Handbook: A Complete Guide to Maximizing Flock Health and Dealing with Disease (Storey Publishing, 2015) by Gail Damerow is the ultimate resource for raising healthy chickens. This second edition is updated and revised, featuring full-color photographs and detailed illustrations to assist chicken owners with a variety of health concerns. Damerow, the country’s most widely recognized authority on the subject, explains how to keep chicken meat and eggs free from contaminants and bacteria.

You can purchase this book from the Capper's Farmer store: The Chicken Health Handbook.

Meat and Egg Contaminants

One of the reasons people raise their own food-producing chickens, even though doing so costs more than purchasing store-bought meat and eggs, is their concerns about pesticide and herbicide residues, antibiotics, and microbial contaminants in industrially produced poultry products.

Pesticides and herbicides are used on most feed crops that make up chicken rations. Unless you have a source of so-called organic rations, your eggs and chicken meat will contain no fewer residues from pesticides and herbicides than industrially produced meat, which in any case is extremely low. Residues can also come from treating chickens or their facilities for external parasites using chemicals that enter a chicken’s body by inhalation or through the skin. Chemical treatments should therefore be used with care, and cleanliness is far preferable.

Antibiotics at low levels are used industrially to make meat birds reach market weights faster with lower feed costs. Antibiotics are not routinely given to industrial layers but are occasionally used as needed to control disease. You can easily avoid antibiotics in homegrown meat by not making drugs part of your management routine and by observing the withdrawal time for any drug you do use for therapeutic purposes.

Pathogenic microbes pose the greatest threat among contaminants in poultry meat or eggs, especially those that are industrially produced, since large-scale production and processing lend themselves to unsanitary practices.

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