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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Egg Recall by the Numbers – How many chickens does it take to make 380,000,000 Eggs?

Eggs jpgOn August 13, Wright County Egg conducted a nationwide recall of shell eggs on 3 of its 5 farms. Further epidemiologic and traceback information led to Wright County Egg expanding its recall on August 18 to cover all 5 farms and 380,000,000 eggs.

  • Shell eggs under the August 13, 2010 recall are packaged under the brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps. Shell eggs are packed in 6-egg cartons, 12-egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946. (89 days of production – May 16, 2010 to August 13, 2010).
  • Recalled shell eggs affected by the expanded recall are packaged under the brand names: Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma, Lund, Kemps and Pacific Coast. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg, 12-egg, and18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 229 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942. (93 days of production – May 16, 2010 to August 17, 2010).

So, I am a lawyer, not a mathematician – but here is goes. I person close to a few chickens told me that chickens do not necessarily lay every day, so I should presume that about 75% are producing on any given day. We know that the recall to date is over 89 or 93 days – call it an average of 91 days. Therefore, in 91 days the chickens produced 380,000,000 eggs or about 4,175,824 eggs a day. Now it is getting harder for me. So, if only 75% of the chickens are producing on any given day, you need about 5,219,490 chickens to get to 4,175,824 eggs a day and 380,000,000 produced over 91 days. That, assuming my math is close, is a hell of a lot of chickens – even in 5 farms.

  • The other question is why so large a recall. If the traceability system they should have been using was adequate they would have narrowed this down. It cannot conceivably be that all of these egs are contaminated. We hear from FDA that 1/20,000 eggs are laced with SE. So doing the math 19,000 of these eggs were contaminated-anyway. We have in this case a loci of infection that is yet to be determined therefore these recall numbers do not mean much in terms of risk. Traceability should have narrowed this down to probably a few hundred affected layers.

  • Reb

    Several things – 1 out of 20,000 eggs MIGHT be infected from AN INFECTED FLOCK, not in general from all flocks as you have been lead to believe. So there would not have been 19,000 eggs out in distribution to make people sick anyway if they had come from a non-infected flock. Remember, too that out of those 19,000 eggs that might be tainted, you would have to eat one that has not been properly cooked as salmonella is killed by reaching cooking temps of 165 degrees, whites are fully firm and yolks are solid, but still soft. Yes, all the eggs that have been recalled are not tainted, but there are still a goodly amount to worry about.
    Traceability was likely working not too badly, they just kept finding eggs that lead to other ranches and therefore had to keep recalling. As far as it only affecting a few hundred layers would depend upon biosecurity between their ranches (workers getting it on shoes and taking it to another ranch and spreading it, a poor sanitary practice). If the FDA saw this practice, they likely included more ranches as a precaution until the flocks can be fully tested and environmental swabs taken to see where all the bad bugs are hiding.
    Also, most commercial hens do lay an egg daily because they have their “daylight” artificially adjusted to promote more frequent laying than a bird does naturally.