Commercial Egg Production in Israel - A Consumer Report
Egg-sasperating! To eat or not to eat?
The Israel Channel 10 Television program 'Osot Heshbon' - עושות חשבון reported results of their investigation of commercial egg productions and sales in Israel, on Sunday, 20th March, 2016 We are providing a general English translation of the main points made in the program, for those whose missed the broadcast.
At its outset, the program raises some of the points that are to be covered:
- What to look out for?
- Different types of eggs
- Nutritional value
- Ministry of Health regulations and suggestions
Did you know that the average person in Israel eats 240 eggs per year. This figure does not include eggs that are incorporated into other foods during baking and cooking for example; in cakes, batters, quiches etc.
The Nutritional Value of Eggs. How healthy are they?
Two clinical dieticians were interviewed and these were the points they raised:-
- Despite conflicting reports and opinions over the years, eggs contain cholesterol. Is this good or bad? Know that cholesterol can lead to heart disease. Do you want to take the risk?
- Eating hard boiled eggs is preferable from a nutritional point of view as no extra calories or fats are added in the cooking process.
- To get the best nutritional value from an egg, you must eat both the egg white and the egg yolk
Salmonella & Bacteria in Eggs
A chicken coop (Hebrew: Lul) is contaminated with bacteria. Whatever bacteria are present in the Lul are passed through onto and into the egg.
Most eggs in Israel are infected with Salmonella.
Salmonella causes gastro-intestinal problems like stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea etc. and in some cases even death.
Eggs are being injected with anti-biotics and this is not being reported to Israeli consumers. Clopidol is an organic compound that is used in veterinary medicine. This compound kills some of the bacteria in eggs however Clopidol also affects the balance of good and bad bacteria that are present in the human body.
(Anglo-list comment: The Mayo Clinic reports that signs and symptoms of salmonella infection generally last four to seven days, although it may take several months for your bowels to return to normal.)
In the Chicken Coop
The chicken coop needs to be sterile! The reporter visited a commercial chicken coop in Israel, the egg farmer commented that a typical chicken coop is not a clean, hygienic or sterile place. Chicken excrement is abundant and not always removed or cleaned on a regular basis. There are other undesirable organic materials and muck present in a Lul; roaming cats, mice, dead chickens, dirty feathers and all the bacteria that comes with that. He went on to explain that newly laid eggs are not always cleared on a daily basis. He also commented that there is no official standardization and no inspections are carried out by the authorities.
The lifespan of an egg-laying chicken is between 4 to 5 months after which they chickens are destroyed.
Chickens are crammed into cages and as there are no inspections, egg farmers do whatever they please.
Egg Health Regulations
Did you know that The Israel Ministry of Health - MOH (Heb: Misrad Habriut) forbids the washing of eggs? Egg shells are not perfectly formed, there are small cracks and holes, the shells are porous too. By washing an egg, Salmonella bacteria and water penetrate the egg shell. The inside of the egg shell provides a perfect breeding ground for Salmonella and bacteria.
Even-though the MOH forbids the washing of eggs, it is taking place before the eggs are collected by the wholesale distributors. The egg farmers do not know what happens once the eggs have left the coop and if they do know, they are not acknowledging it.
Some Luls justify washing the eggs; they say that the shell is comprised of 2 layers and bacterial penetration is minimized. Again it was emphasized that as there is no inspection, regulations are ignored.
Glisckman - one of the largest egg distributors in Israel, was contacted by the program, they refused to allow the film-crew to visit their premises and film their warehouses.
Chai Meshek (חי משק) is a non-profit organization that is trying to regulate egg production. Without government involvement, they are struggling to do so.
- The eggs are laid
- The wholesale distributors collect the eggs from the Luls twice a week.
- It then takes the wholesaler a few days to pack and distribute the eggs to the retail outlets.
In other words, we, the consumer, are not buying freshly laid eggs.
Israel imports eggs from other countries. Eggs are also brought into Israel from the Palestinian Authority (P.A.). Again it is emphasized that their is no standardization, regulation or inspection. There is no egg regulation in the P.A. and this combined with the Israel M.O.H.'s minimal standards makes for a dangerous situation. Some eggs from the P.A. are confiscated if they are discovered but most are not discovered. The P.A. forges egg labels and the average consumer cannot tell the different from an egg produced in Israel and one that comes from the P.A.
It is not always clear where the eggs are coming from. Labeling information appearing on the egg shells is vague. The country of origin is often abbreviated (we saw this in January with the egg recall from the Ukraine were eggs were labeled UA).
Eggs from Turkey for example, are label TR. Do you want to eat a Turkish egg? Think on this. Turkey had a recent outbreak of bird flu. Turkey is a large country. Chicken coops are scattered across the country. Wholesalers do not collect eggs on a daily basis. It takes time for the eggs to be packed, loaded into trucks and then onto boats and shipped to Israel. The date on the eggs - is that the date the egg was laid or is that the date the egg arrived in Israel? This is true for eggs imported from other countries as well.
Egg Prices in Israel & Other Countries
Egg production is a highly profitable business. There is a large difference in the price of regular eggs vs. free-range vs. organic.
- The price of a regular egg in Israel is 1 shekel
- In the USA a regular egg sells for 60 agorot
- In Holland a regular egg sells for 80 agorot
- In the Chech Republic, an eggs sells for the equivalent of 49 agorot
What is a regular egg, a free-range, organic or other specialized egg?
- A regular egg is an egg laid by a caged chicken in a chicken coop
- A free range egg is an egg laid by a chicken that is allowed to roam in a chicken coop and maybe has a bit of a yard to roam in too (don't be fooled by the green-fields and smiling chickens on the egg boxes)
- An organic egg is an egg that has not been given any antibiotics
- Specialized eggs with Omega 3 - these chickens are fed with Omega 3 enriched feed.
Retail rices of free-range, organic and specialized eggs are more than twice the price of regular eggs.
- As we mentioned, the retail price of a regular egg in Israel is 1 shekel
- Free range eggs - 24 shekels for 12 or 2 shekels each
- Organic eggs - 30 shekels for 12 or 2.5 shekels each
- Omega 3 eggs are not readily available. They retail at 13 shekels for 6
Is this price justified? Our egg farmer tells us that it costs only 20 agorot more to produce an organic egg. Why sell an egg as a regular egg when you can call it a free-range egg and get a better price? Again, a lack of supervision and inspection allows egg farmers to do whatever they want.
Nutritional Value of regular eggs, free-range, organic and other eggs
Are there any differences in the health benefits or nutritional value of regular, free-range, organic or other eggs? No! In-fact there is a higher risk of Salmonella in organic eggs as they are not given any anti-biotics. Iron and calcium levels in all eggs are identical.
Chai Meshek makes the following recommendations:
- Do not eat fried eggs. Fried eggs are dangerous if the internal temperature of the egg is less than 60º C as bacteria are not killed.
- Do not eat soft boiled eggs for the same reason
- Hard boiled eggs are the safest
- Do not eat an egg if the shell is covered with feces
- Do not eat an egg if the shell is cracked
- Do not put the egg carton in the fridge. If eggs are infected with Salmonella it means the cartons are also infected with Salmonella.
- Do not break an egg on the edge of a bowl or other kitchen implement that you may use to beat the egg
- Wear gloves when working with raw eggs (kneading dough, rolling meatballs etc.). Throw the gloves away afterwards.
- Make sure you wash your hands after handling eggs.
The Israel Ministry of Health
The 'Osot Heshbon' production team tried to contact the M.O.H. on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, the M.O.H. did not respond in a timely manner and so their opinions and reactions were not incorporated.
The M.O.H. did comment eventually and responded by saying that they were saddened by the investigation and comments and opinions raised in the program and said that they had not been given adequate time to respond. They went on to say that they will respond in time and in a way that they see fit.
Egg Substitutes in Food Preparation
Eggs are used as a binding agent in may recipes. You can substite eggs with apple sauce in many recipes. You can also substitute ground almond and chick-pea flour. Recipes can be found on "Osot Heshbon's" Facebook page.
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