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Salmonella scare drives demand for locally produced eggs

Monday, August 30, 2010 | 7:15 p.m. CDT; updated 10:40 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 30, 2010
Dave Todd, owner of Todd Farm in Millersburg, sells his eggs at the Columbia Farmers Market on Monday. Since the salmonella outbreak, Todd has noticed an increase in demand for locally produced eggs.

COLUMBIA — On Saturday at the Columbia Farmers' Market, the Stanton Brothers' egg farm sold out for the second straight weekend. They sold about 400 dozen eggs by 11:45 a.m.

"We haven't sold out for over a year until the week before last," said Andrew Stanton, whose sons Dustin, 17, and Austin, 14, run the business. "And this week we brought extras and sold them out, too."

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Since a salmonella outbreak prompted the first egg recall on Aug. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website that there have been 1,470 reported illnesses, and according to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 500 million eggs have been recalled.

As a result, some consumers are turning to local markets to purchase their eggs, and several regional egg vendors are benefiting.

Stanton said the past two Saturdays are the busiest he's ever experienced.

Tammy and Greg Sellmeyer, of Sellmeyer Farm in Fulton, also stayed busy at the farmers market. They sold out of all their eggs on Aug. 21.

"I wasn't even engaged and thinking to bring more eggs," Tammy Sellmeyer said. "Once we got here and everyone was talking about the eggs we were like, 'Oh, yeah,' and then we weren't surprised."

A third vendor, Walk-About Acres of Columbia, sold out of the six to eight dozen eggs it brought to the market Aug. 21, and the eight dozen eggs it brought Saturday.

"For us, it's always busy," said Vera Gelder, Walk-About Acres' owner. "We've just got our regular customers."

David James, a regular at the farmers market, said that he and his wife choose to buy local eggs because the chickens are raised independently and he thinks they are more likely to be healthy and produce salmonella-free eggs.

"That outbreak has definitely made us decide to come to the farmers market," James said. "We feel confident that these eggs are safe to eat."

Don Ginsburg, a customer of the Stanton Brothers', said he thinks local eggs are safer because of the way they are harvested.

"I would hope that they are safer, and I think they are," he said. "Because they're not mass-produced, I feel like they would be safer and less likely to be diseased."

Stanton said there is no way to visually check eggs for salmonella.

"I can't and won't guarantee that our eggs don't have salmonella," he said. "I'm 99 percent sure that our eggs are not contaminated, but I can't guarantee it 100 percent. Nothing's 100 percent."

Stanton added that there is risk everywhere.

"You know where eggs are laid from, and it's not exactly like it's the cleanest place," he said.

Sellmeyer also said that it is difficult for farmers to tell if chickens are carrying the bacteria and passing them on in their eggs because the bacteria do not kill the birds.

To lower the likelihood of contracting a salmonella infection, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services recommends cooking eggs thoroughly to make sure the yolk and egg whites are not runny, and avoiding all foods that contain uncooked eggs. The heat from cooking kills the salmonella bacteria.

As of Monday afternoon, there have been no reported cases in Missouri of eggs causing salmonella infection, according to the health department.


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