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Making a safer egg; Local farms: We do it right.

Byline: Bradford L. Miner

Local egg producers say the recent salmonella scare is a byproduct of the country's industrialized food production system.

Julie Rawson of the Many Hands Organic Farm on Sheldon Road, Barre, said the farm produces about three dozen eggs a day and has for more than 25 years.

"We sell what we don't need for ourselves, and we also raise free-range chickens for meat," she said.

Ms. Rawson said the recall of a half-billion eggs for suspected salmonella enteritidis contamination points to the hazards of raising chickens in factory-like conditions.

"This is a perfect example of the country's industrialized food system gone awry. The problem is that for local farmers, say, who raise free-range chickens and feed them organic grain as we do, the production costs are just too high," she said.

"People ultimately get what they pay for, and if they want to buy cheap food high in refined sugar, flour, salt and high-fructose corn syrup, there's a good chance they'll pay an even higher price later in health care costs," Ms. Rawson said.

Meanwhile, The Country Hen, 16 Williamsville Road, Hubbardston, is complying with new Food and Drug Administration rules in the wake of the salmonella recall in Iowa, but general manager Bob Beauregard is quick to point out the farm has never tested positive for salmonella enteritidis.

A major Massachusetts egg producer, The Country Hen did $6 million in business last year and distributed upward of 25 million eggs to supermarkets and groceries in New England and along the East Coast, according to Mr. Beauregard.

"We haven't seen any change in demand in the stores," the general manager said, but added, "We've had plenty of e-mails, phone calls and letters, all inquiring about whether our eggs were subject to the recall. We're not, and our 80,000 laying hens are housed in spacious sunlit barns and are fed an organic feed mix that's high in omega-3s."

Mr. Beauregard noted that The Country Hen sells eggs directly from the farm to the public Saturday mornings, but in light of contamination concerns from outsiders, there will be no contact between the public and those working with the hens and egg production.

David Petrovick of Caledonia Farm, 167 Grogan Road, Barre, sells about 50 dozen eggs at the weekly farmers market near Waltham Common.

He also said he has received many inquiries about how he manages his 150 laying hens and how his eggs are handled.

"There was a slight uptick in the demand for eggs, even at the $5- to $6-a-dozen level, I have to make it worthwhile," Mr. Petrovick said.

The farmer said he is unaware of any local or state licensing or inspection requirements for small farms such as his, but said he sells under the umbrella permit issued by the Waltham Board of Health to the Waltham farmers market requiring proper refrigeration and proper safety labeling for eggs.

ART: PHOTO; CHART

CUTLINE: (PHOTO) David Petrovick stands in the pen he has built for his chickens at Caledonia Farm in Barre. The pen is moved weekly, allowing the chickens to be kept "free range" style. (CHART) United States egg production, 2009-2010

PHOTOG: (PHOTO) T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN (CHART) T&G Staff/STACEY ARSENAULT
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Title Annotation:MONEY
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 25, 2010
Words:540
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