How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!
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Government has a way of making us all question our sanity. Especially when it comes to food regulations and its environmentally unsound consequences.
In many countries across the globe, the practice of washing eggs is seen as anti-hygienic. Because when egg producers wash fresh eggs, they also remove a layer of protein known as cuticle.
The cuticle is important because it prevents the egg shell from being porous. With a porous exterior, eggs are vulnerable to bacteria.
In the 1970s, regulators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that egg producers should invest in “fancy machines,” as NPR puts it, to shampoo eggs with soap and hot water. But once the eggs were washed, regulators added, producers should place them immediately in a refrigerator.
To justify the addition of yet another requirement for the egg industry, regulators claimed this step helped to avoid salmonella contamination. But washing the egg’s exterior does little to prevent contamination.
As NPR explains, the cuticle “is like a little safety vest for the egg, keeping water and oxygen in and bad bacteria out. Washing can damage that layer and ‘increase the chances for bacterial invasion’ into pores or hairline cracks in the shell, according to Yi Chen, a food scientist at Purdue University.”
Salmonella enteritidis often infects a chicken’s ovaries, which tends to impact the yolk before the shell hardens. The bacteria can be killed when consumers cook it. Washing the exterior of the egg does little to prevent contamination. As expected, salmonella continues to expose about 142,000 individuals to infections each year.
While many contend that washing the egg and refrigerating it or leaving the cuticle both work, only the method adopted by the United States government requires a great deal of electricity use to ensure the product’s safety. Considering only 10 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption comes from renewable sources, it’s hard to see why environmentalists are not urging government to nix this particular regulation.
But too much energy consumption is not the only negative consequence of egg-washing. The cost of purchasing an egg washing machine, the device’s maintenance, required labor, and the cost of electricity employed in maintaining the product shielded from contamination all add up, increasing the price of eggs and harming the consumer.
With reports showing just how salmonella is still a problem despite the regulatory requirements imposed on the egg industry, it’s hard to contend forcing all producers to wash their eggs is somehow productive. Especially when so much electricity is required to maintain the eggs refrigerated.
Why not try freedom for a change?