STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Latest Fear Mongering About Self Sufficiency: Salmonella in Backyard Chickens
By Joe Jarvis - October 20, 2017

Two years ago I moved to Florida from Massachusetts. When people found out I was moving, they would often immediately remark, “Get ready for the brutal heat and humidity!”

It was their first instinct to bring up any possible negative about moving to a much more pleasant climate.

About a year later, I posted pictures of vegetables we had grown, and chickens we keep. I also mentioned the name we call our mini-farm: Prickly Pear Plantation.

Was the first comment from my progressive liberal friend all about how great it is that we aren’t using any pesticides? Was it about how happy our free-range chickens look, or about how great it is that we aren’t supporting Monsanto? Did he remark on the fact that basically everything we build has some materials recycled from old projects and equipment on the property?

No. He said we shouldn’t call our mini-farm a plantation because it is apparently politically incorrect.

I’ve also had fat people tell me that running is bad for my knees. There actually are some health risks related to too much exercise. And there’s ten times more related to not enough exercise.

It isn’t just peers that seem so eager to bring attention to the negatives in any positive situation.

The media does it too.

I just read a report about how the trend of raising backyard poultry is contributing to a rise in salmonella infections. Fox, the New York Times, NPR and other popular outlets have reported the same thing within the last few months. CBS actually titled their article: “Backyard Chicken Trend Turns Deadly.”

All the reports are based on a Centers for Disease Control warning about the “outbreak” of salmonella among small-scale chicken keepers.

Now I certainly don’t object to good information about staying healthy while raising livestock. A lot of people who keep chickens on a small scale are new to it.

But looking at the numbers of infections, I doubt the salmonella risk is even as great as buying chicken and eggs from the store.

Since January, more than 1,100 people have contracted salmonella poisoning from chickens and ducks in 48 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Almost 250 were hospitalized and one person died. The toll was four times higher than in 2015.

If the trend of keeping chickens is growing, it shouldn’t be surprising that the rates of salmonella infection are keeping pace. And while these numbers may seem high at first glance, over one million people countrywide come down with salmonella a year. So only about one-tenth of 1% of cases stem from people keeping chickens at home.

The general population has a risk of about 1 in 320 of getting salmonella in a given year. That means if there are more than about 320,000 people who keep chickens in their backyards in the USA, they have a lower risk than the general population of contracting salmonella.

There aren’t very reliable statistics on how many people in the U.S. keep chickens for personal use. But a 2013 survey estimated .8% of American households keep backyard chickens. That means about one million households keep chickens. Going with the average household of 2.58 people, you could say perhaps 2.5 million people live in a household that keeps backyard chickens.

If these numbers are even close to accurate–or even off by a factor of five–that means the risk of salmonella is actually lower for backyard chicken farmers than for the general population!

Another interesting thing to note is that the distribution of baby chicks is still pretty centralized. But the centralized food industry is one of the biggest problems relating to foodborne illness in the first place. So is the problem keeping chickens in your backyard, or is the problem sourcing those chickens from one of a handful of hatcheries?

In that sense, scaring people away from keeping chickens in their backyard is just ushering them into another centralized food industry just as–or more–likely to get them sick. The real solution is keeping chickens as well as sourcing them locally from a farm you can visit.

So the problem with these kinds of alarmist articles is that they could curb an overall more healthy behavior. They encourage people to do the same old unhealthy thing, instead of pursuing a healthier alternative for fear of a relatively obscure risk.

Keeping chickens might actually reduce the overall chance of getting salmonella from poultry products. But even if it increases the risk, it doesn’t take into account the long-term health benefits of eating homegrown versus storebought food.

And then there are so many other factors that one alarming statistic does not take into account. Maybe keeping chickens is better for your mental health. Maybe knowing where your eggs come from decreases your stress levels. Perhaps being exposed to livestock inoculates you against more serious diseases.

(An interesting side note: In the late 1700’s, smallpox was a devastating disease. But Dr. Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids who had previously come down with cowpox were immune to smallpox. The symptoms of cowpox were much milder compared to deadly smallpox. Yet the diseases were similar enough so that having had cowpox acted as an inoculation against smallpox.)

The overblown fear of salmonella from backyard chickens probably makes people less healthy overall.

Society seems to hate anything that empowers individuals.

Basically, the overall message from society and the media seems to encourage the status quo–even when the status quo is less healthy or riskier.

I see this attitude even in the comments of The Daily Bell. If I am too optimistic about a trend, technology, or movement, I basically hear, don’t you know people have always been slaves and always will be!

If I talk about exiting an unjust society it’s: oh so you’re just going to run and hide? If I talk about standing up to the powers that be it’s: wow, you really think you could defeat the machine? If I talk about finding a group of like-minded people to form a voluntary community with it’s: what are you some kind of hippie communist?

Most people don’t want anyone else to change. Misery loves company. People would rather drag others down than build themselves up.

If one person isn’t into keeping chickens, they get some sort of pleasure hearing about any possible pitfall. Fat people like that runners injure themselves. Liberals care more about the name of my mini-farm than about the positive impact it has. And the people freezing their asses off in Massachusetts just have to make themselves feel better by telling me how miserable I’ll be in the summer.

But individuals actually do have control over their lives. They can divorce themselves from a centralized and unhealthy food industry. They can make themselves free, happy, and prosperous. They don’t have to live in a place they hate or continue a depressing lifestyle.

It is a victim mentality that seeks excuses not to make a positive change in one’s own life. Why bother if the alternative is just as unhealthy. Why try if I will just get beat down by society.

And the media definitely doesn’t want people to change. They have a vested interest in making sure there is an army of negatrons to counter every positive utterance. That is how the media protects the status quo. It is how they make sure people don’t step too far out of line.

It is how they make sure people don’t empower themselves to stop depending on the state and corporate institutions.

Don’t fall for their hype.

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  • Gene Higginbotham

    Is the problem with eating the egg or eating the meat ?

    • There is no problem, it is all created phony junk.

      So the chickens on your property that can run around and get fed well are the sick chickens and the factory chickens crammed together in isolation like sardines are the good healthy chickens, Hey ? Why do you suppose we had the bird virus a while back ?

      • Dimitri Ledkovsky

        Chickens at the factory farms get medicated to control infectious pathogens, eg. antibiotics.

        • Ephraiyim

          Yes, true but there is almost no research on the long term affects of potential consequences of eating meat from animals fed with antibiotics.
          And they are also fed growth hormones which have even less research behind them.

        • If you say so, it must be a good thing ? Do you suppose any of those drugs and growth hormones migrate into your food ?

    • Salmonella is generally contamination from chickens’ fecal matter, which can affect the eggs or the meat if it is contaminated. But in the cases of backyard farmers, they were sometimes infected from handling the birds, and then presumably touching their mouth or something else that they ended up eating. From grocery stores, people are infected from both eggs and meat.

    • mary

      Home raised, free range chickens aren’t a problem and salmonella is easy to avoid. It all about how clean you keep their environment.

      Eggs have a natural coating that maintains their sterility and their shelf life. You don’t have to refrigerate unwashed eggs. Best to collect them before the hens have much chance contaminate them with the feces or peck at them. Just before you use the eggs, wash them with hot water and dish soap. And of course always wash your hands after handling the hens.

      This is a transparent propaganda campaign to scare people out of having chickens, a great hobby, and a healthful and humane way to provide some of your own food. We’ve had chickens for many years and not once did any of us have salmonella or food poisoning–except from restaurant food.

  • georgesilver

    Propaganda by Joe Jarvis to reinforce the idea that free range chickens are harmful under the guise that he is somehow indignant. Probably another meme being promoted by the multi-million dollar factions backing the Daily Bell as a ‘little’ voice crying all alone in the dark night. LOL
    I suppose we will soon get another finance letter from Simon Black telling us to invest in massive chicken farms.

    • Henry Balfour

      DIAF

  • JRX

    Good read, Joe.

  • Henry Balfour
  • Amy T-S

    Love my backyard chickens! They are a great form of entertainment and definitely a de-stresser. Neighbor”s make it a point to walk by my house to look in the backyard to watch the “girls”. They too find them entertaining. They also love the fact that my dog and cat will sit in the yard with the girls.

  • Mark Foreman

    I suggest Cutting your cable,Attract new friends and watch some Karma tube in the morning to get your day going. The only power they have is the power that you give them. Enjoy your chickens! smile their is a giant movement underway to de centralize power.

    • Col. E. H. R. Green

      My ladyfriend grew up on a dairy farm. The cows and the milk production are long gone (the government taxed her parents out of the business), hay grows in the fields where the cows used to graze, but her oldest brother keeps chickens in the backyard and shares their eggs with her. She has no idea what condition the chickens are in. They appear to be fine, their eggs, though small, are delicious, and she hasn’t gotten ill from them. When I visit her, we go out to the pen to feed the “bock-bocks”, watch them peck for bread crumbs, and listen to them “talk” to us and each other. It is indeed a delightful and relaxing activity, one that exemplifies and celebrates self-reliance.

      The worst disease that we have to worry about is that of statism, which Mother Hen Government and her statist chicks are intent on incubating and spreading.

  • Andy

    I grew up on a goat, chicken and turkey ranch and have dozens of those stories which sustain my gentle nature towards the care of animals. My two huge white feathered chickens, Jake & Irma, were more like my feathery children. I hatched them from eggs in a styrofoam incubator as a school project for my 3rd grade son. I would go to his school and give twice weekly knowledge talks to the children on incubation and how-to’s on raising chickens and speak on their quirky, but fun yet intelligent natures. If they needed scratch feed, they would both crowd around me and peck gently on my legs as their signal to be fed. Very affectionate they both always were.

    I’d sit on low aluminum sand chairs on patio while enjoying my morning coffee, both chickens would fight gently with each other over getting onto my lap, once one won their game of capture my lap, quickly it would twist onto its back & spread its wings. I had long nails and would scratch its skin down deep between feathers, all over their chest and up and down their “arms”. As I did this, they would cluck cluck cluck very slow, uttering drawn out low sounds, almost a constant groan but more sounding of pleasures of being scratched gently until they had enough and then got down on their own. This became their daily routine and there was no escaping from those two most fun and funny, almost loving birds. In the end, they owned me and it was good. People understimate animal intelligence when they think of chickens as a simple minded and as low IQ on the animal hierarchy – the chicken. Chickens are far more intelligent than people give them credit for, and that should be changed into respect and enjoyment for the gifts they give to us “humans” such as eggs, which are known to be one of nature’s most complete foods.

    I loved Jake & Irma, as they provided for my family for nearly 8 years with 2 daily eggs, sometimes more. They ask of people for little more than good companionship and for us to be a good steward for their safety and health and their returns for our efforts are downright priceless. My son has since kept chickens for those same reasons of the reward being greater than the sacrifice of your time and a few dollars spent for their care and feed. So, enjoy your chickens as I have done and hope to do so again in the future. They can only depend on you and they allow you to not depend on factory farmed inhumane and unhealthy “food” which back yard chicken coops should never have been outlawed to begin with. You do not own them, you are a steward for them. That is what has been forgotten by most people; the giving of yourselves towards respect towards good animal husbandry and stewardship of our precious and irreplaceable animals, some of which are going extinct to factories and are no longer within the kingdom of our planet – Earth.

    Feel free to repost if you wish. It is my story which I share freely and openly, so that others, might think more highly of these seemingly simple creatures, and are not, so simple at all. Namaste.

  • Don Duncan

    I buy pasture chicken (Mary’s) available only at WFM. I can’t get pasture eggs and I have looked all over here in the Las Vegas area.
    Buying “free range or cage free” is not the same as pasture, far from it thanks to the lobbyists who have gotten laws changed to confuse so they can continue to sell their junk eggs. They are only slightly better than conventional, but NO substitute for pasture eggs.

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