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8 Reasons You Should Stay the Hell Away From Eggs

From hideous cruelty and noxious gases to health risks and environmental blight, here are eight reasons to remove eggs from your diet.
 
 
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It was enough to make the nation put down their Egg McMuffins. Almost a billion "government-inspected" eggs were recalled because they might harbor salmonella, a bacterium that causes bloody and mucoid diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg warned people that if they ate their eggs runny and over-easy, something else could become runny and over-easy -- not to mention sunny-side-up.

It's hard to believe a nation so concerned with cardiovascular disease -- 33.5 million take statins -- would eat the "strokes in a shell" known as eggs, the highest cholesterol food known to man. And there are even more reasons to remove eggs from your diet. Here are eight of them.

1) Yuck factor

Undercover video shot at Menifee, CA-based Norco Ranch egg farm in 2008 shows bloody, insect-covered eggs destined for tomorrow's omelets. Video also shows the bleeding and prolapsed hen's vents that produced the eggs. Egg operations are so plagued with salmonella and other bacteria, the FDA found a hatchery injecting antibioticsdirectly into eggs. And the eggs those birds laid? They had residues of antibiotics, says at least one medical study.

2) Ovarian cancer

"Our findings suggested that ovarian cancer risk was positively associated with higher consumption of dietary cholesterol and eggs," says the journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The American Journal of Epidemiology, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention agree. Results from the 84,129-women, 20-year Nurses' Health Study also show an egg consumption/ovarian cancer link. Why are we surprised? Human eggs are produced in women's ovaries.

3) Steeped in Noxious Gases

Because egg farms stack hens on top of each other over manure pits so farmers don't have to clean cages, the air is toxic for the animals, workers and other humans who enter barns. According to United Egg Producer guidelines (the group that approved the farms producing the salmonella eggs) ammonia should not exceed 25 ppm but "temporary excesses" are acceptable. Cesar Britos, an attorney representing egg workers, tried to enter an egg factory in Turner, Maine owned by Jack DeCoster (the producer at the heart of the current scandal) and said "I thought I was going to faint and I was only there a few minutes.'' Last year law enforcement and state agriculture workers entered the same factories in Maine, more than a decade later, and had to be treated by doctors for lungs burned by ammonia.

4) Diabetes

Eating eggs is "positively associated" with the risk of diabetes, finds May's journal, Nutrition and last year's journal, Diabetes Care. While other studies have disputed the connection, some financed by the egg industry, the journals Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases and International Journal of Clinical Practice say consumption of eggs in people who already have diabetes is "associated with an elevated risk of coronary heart disease."

5) Hideous Cruelty: Carcasses and Moribund Hens

Laying hens crammed into battery cages don't always survive. And while workers periodically come through to remove them from the living as undercover video from Turlock, CA-based Gemperle Enterprises farms shows (Gemperle eggs are distributed by NuCal Food, a U.S. Department of Defense vendor), dying hens also remain while "farm-fresh" eggs are produced. "Another live hen, also trapped under her cage's front wall, had the side of her face on a moving egg belt. I saw that the side of her face, including her eye, was encrusted in what appeared to be egg yolk and dust," writes an undercover humane investigator at a DeCoster farm last year. 

6) Unhygienic 'Depopulation'

Unlike meat chickens that are hung upside-down and eviscerated at slaughterhouses, laying hens, which do not usually provide meat, are too cheap to spend money killing. Undercover video shows laying hens twirled by the neck, tossed into garbage cans where they suffocate, kicked into manure pits to drown and put into the kill carts workers push through to be gassed, when lucky. As many as 30,000 unwanted hens were fed live into a wood chipper at Ward Egg Ranch in San Diego County, CA in 2003. And fires, like one at the DeCoster-tied Ohio Fresh Eggs operation in Harpster in March that killed 250,000 hens are frequently allowed to consume the hens.

7) Unethical Hatcheries

Even when laying hens are "free range" and not confined in battery cages, the egg industry is predicated on the death at birth of half of the chicks. Since male chicks are of no use to the egg industry, newly born males are ground up alive at hatcheries. Video at Hy-Line in Spencer, Iowa clearly shows healthy male chicks peeping and bouncing as they are fed live into rotating blades like so much litter, coming out a bloody slush used for dog food. "If someone has a need for 200 million male chicks, we're happy to provide them to anyone who wants them," says UEP spokesman Mitch Head. "But we can find no market, no need."

8) Blight on Workers, Neighbors and the Environment

When Labor Secretary Robert Reich viewed a DeCoster egg factory in the '90s he said, "The conditions in this migrant farm site are as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop we have seen.'' Federal investigators found DeCoster workers living in rat and cockroach-infested housing with unsanitary drinking water, their children often pressed into work. In addition to abuse of migrant workers, egg operations have been sued by neighbors for their odors, black flies and environmental pollution. One grandfather who lives near Ohio Fresh Eggs says he has to hold a fly swatter when his grandchildren visit. Inside the house!

Martha Rosenberg frequently writes about the impact of the pharmaceutical, food and gun industries on public health. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and other outlets.
 
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