Raw eggs!? How sick could I get?
December 5, 2010 12:23 AM   Subscribe

Raw egg white shakes from my own chickens? Would I be safe or would I be playing Russion Roulette?

After recently testing out a recipe suggestion from a carton of pasteurized egg whites I've become hooked to raw egg white shakes in the morning mixed with various fruits and juices.

I also happen to have a flock of my own chickens and have been debating just skipping the pasteurized egg whites and mixing up my own but I am concerned about possibly getting sick from bacterial infections. I have seven chickens all under a year old that we've had since they were a day old. I've done some Googling but I seem to get mixed messages on whether it would be safe to eat raw.

Basically, my question is should I keep paying for the pure pasteurized egg whites or could I just start cracking my own shakes in the morning?

If it matters, I'm a very healthy 29 year old male mostly interested in high protein breakfasts that are easy on the stomach and quick.
posted by Octoparrot to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's highly unlikely you will get sick, and if you do, even more unlikely it will kill you. I grew up in the country and ate home-laid eggs until I was about 15, no one in my family ever got sick and we often had egg milkshakes etc.
posted by smoke at 12:51 AM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My understanding is that healthy, non-battery-farmed hens are much less likely to lay salmonella-contaminated eggs, but that the chance is still not zero: hens can apparently be asymptomatic and still pass on the disease. Anecdotally, OTOH, I ate raw eggs from our home raised hens for a few years without ill effect.

You're healthy and not pregnant, so maybe you're willing to take the risk.
posted by hattifattener at 12:58 AM on December 5, 2010

Best answer: Cite. Money quote: "Over 5700 hens eggs from 15 flocks naturally infected with Salmonella enteritidis were examined individually for the presence of the organism in either egg contents or on shells.

Thirty-two eggs (0·6%) were positive in the contents. In the majority, levels of contamination were low. Three eggs, however, were found to contain many thousands of cells. In eggs where it was possible to identify the site of contamination, the albumen was more frequently positive than the yolk.

Storage at room temperature had no significant effect on the prevalence of salmonella-positive eggs but those held for more than 21 days were more likely (P <>
I don't know about you, but I like those odds!
posted by smoke at 12:58 AM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: At a food safety seminar I attended last season I learned that there's an emergent strain of salmonella that's internal to chickens and that a hen can lay eggs with salmonella internally without any contamination or mishandling. This is new. Previously egg issues have resulted from mishandling which, in fairness, includes leaving an egg in the nest long enough for a hen to crap on it. I also learned that, en masse, food safety professionals are not a barrel of laughs.

Were it me, making the decision about eggs from my own chickens and for my own consumption, I wouldn't think twice. NOMNOMNOM! There is a risk and you need to make your own decision about it, of course. You'll always get mixed messages, and I hope mine is mixed, because it comes down to personal risk management and tolerance.

That said, pasteurization isn't rocket science. For dairy, it's roughly heating the milk to 140-150F and holding it there for 24-45 minutes or something. Those numbers are off the top of my head so do your own research. My half-assed googling suggests that pasteurizing egg whites involves heating them for 2-3 minutes at similar temperatures. Taking the time to grow your own and pasteurize your own is pretty much the safest of all possible worlds. Go nuts!
posted by stet at 1:13 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh gosh darn it I screwed up the tags in my quote there, you get the gist; click through to read the abstract. Unless you're eating hundreds of eggs every day, you'll be apples. :)
posted by smoke at 3:51 AM on December 5, 2010

stet: the eggs both come out of the ventricle... Half the time the egg will have crap on it when it arrives in the nest.. Are you sure that has anything to do with salmonella contamination?
posted by Glendale at 5:10 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

My doctor tells me it's kind of useless to eat raw eggs, as the human body can absorb more protein from cooked eggs:

A 1997 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that the protein in cooked eggs was actually 40% more bio-available to the body than when uncooked. In practical terms, this means that you’d have to eat seven raw eggs to absorb the amount of protein available in five cooked eggs. So cooking actually enhances the biological value (BV) of eggs, versus degrading it.

This, combined with the salmonella risks, makes it not worth it in my opinion.
posted by clearlydemon at 5:44 AM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I really, really like raw cookie dough, so I looked into this when I had chickens.

Obviously the problem is that chickens can carry salmonella without showing it. How do you know if your chickens are carrying it?

Apparently, it's unusual for chicks that came from a good farm to carry salmonella. However, exposure to wild birds who are salmonella carriers can infect them. If your hens spend any time where they might have any interaction with wild birds (mine had free run of my horse pasture, for example, and we also get cowbirds and crows and songbirds and so on out there), they might pick up salmonella.

I tried to look into testing, wondering if it might make sense to just get them tested every so often. I couldn't find anyone who was willing to do it, much less to give me a quote (like, $5/bird? $50/bird? I couldn't even get a ballpark).

Eventually I decided that I couldn't agonize over it. My chicks started out well and risk of exposure was low (if real), and so I went ahead and licked my mixing spoons anyway.
posted by galadriel at 6:20 AM on December 5, 2010

It's possible to pasteurize your own eggs in your microwave if you want to be sure they're safe. The process looks a little fiddly -- you have to actually watch for certain points in the process and then time based on that -- but not complicated.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on December 5, 2010

I have chickens, and I take a dozen eggs each year to the State Poultry Board which is at Purdue, and they test the eggs for pathogens for free. It is a way for people to find out if their birds are carriers of common pathogens (they do 12 in total) and determine the health status of their flock. I would imagine you could find a similar program at CSU (which according to your profile is fairly close). Maybe call the State Poultry Board and find out. FWIW, mine have always tested negative.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:11 AM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Glendale: "stet: the eggs both come out of the ventricle... Half the time the egg will have crap on it when it arrives in the nest.. Are you sure that has anything to do with salmonella contamination?"

Sure, that's why I refer to mishandling. Eggs are laid with a mucous layer that keeps nasties out and happy baby chickens in. This is why, in WA at least, immersion processes are prohibited from being used in commercial egg washing and rinsewater for eggs needs to be carefully temperature monitored to prevent osmosis and thus contamination from the exterior to the interior portion of the egg.
posted by stet at 10:04 AM on December 5, 2010

My doctor tells me it's kind of useless to eat raw eggs, as the human body can absorb more protein from cooked eggs.

This. If you're looking for high protein, you're doing it wrong.

But either way, you're better off with your own eggs than those bought from a store (assuming, of course, that you're keeping your chicken in good conditions) if only because you can trust the conditions in which your own eggs are produced. So your eggs will be safer, but I still wouldn't call them 100% safe.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:12 PM on December 5, 2010

My doctor tells me it's kind of useless to eat raw eggs, as the human body can absorb more protein from cooked eggs:

clearlydemon, your doctor should be informed that there's more than just one reason to eat eggs.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:13 PM on December 5, 2010

Response by poster: Lots of great answers. Thank you all!

Regarding the protein bio-availability I did see that same research. I've found though that the time spent cooking eggs adds some time to my morning routine (only a few minutes but ever minute counts for me). I also tend to be one of those people that don't really want to eat breakfast right away but I can chug a shake no problem.

I think I'm going to continue buying the pasteurized egg whites but if I run out I won't think twice about just whipping up my own in-between visits to the store.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:14 PM on December 5, 2010

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