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Eggs-tremely Disgusting: Inspectors Uncover Factory Farm Filth in Iowa

By Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.
Sept. 1, 2010

Could it get any worse? Answer: YES.

At first, I listened with only half an ear to a radio report about federal inspectors discovering yet more disturbing conditions at one of the egg facilities at the center of the salmonella controversy.

I was already saturated with disgust. It’s become more and more clear that a callous disregard for public health is at the root of the contamination, which has sickened more than 1,500 people across the country.

But then I delved into the Food and Drug Administration’s actual inspection report. I began to realize there are levels of filth that I cannot imagine. Like a script setting the scene for a horror movie, here was a seven-page document painting a gruesome picture.

Some of the lowlights I read twice, in case I misunderstood the inspectors’ notes. The following findings stood out:

  • Chicken manure piles up to 8 feet high.
  • “Dark liquid” manure seeping through the concrete foundations of the hen houses.
  • Over two dozen live rodents spotted and counted in the hen houses by inspectors.
  • Live and dead flies “too numerous to count.”
  • Live and dead maggots “too numerous to count.”
  • Wild birds living among the egg-laying hens (if “bird flu” rings a bell, then you may know why this could be catastrophic).

Keep in mind: This is from a post-outbreak inspection. No one caught these problems BEFORE it was determined which farms were at the center of this problem.

Are we ready to get real about eggs? As a dietitian, I can tell you that you don’t need them in your diet. In fact, long before the current recall occurred, I counseled against the consumption of eggs. Even when they don’t contain salmonella, they still pose a threat to your health.

About 70 percent of the calories in an egg are from fat. Eggs also have a surprising load of “bad” (saturated) fat along with it. Saturated fat causes the liver to produce more cholesterol, which in turn increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.

One average-size egg contains 212 milligrams of cholesterol. This is more cholesterol than the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends people eat in an entire day.1 An egg contains more cholesterol than a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese, which contains an excessive 94 milligrams of cholesterol. Every 100 milligrams of cholesterol in your daily diet adds roughly five points to your cholesterol level—although this varies from person to person.

People can reduce their cholesterol levels dramatically by changing the foods they eat. Every time you reduce your cholesterol level by 1 percent, you reduce your risk of heart disease by 2 percent.2 There is no dietary requirement for cholesterol; therefore, there is no recommended dietary allowance. The greatest health benefits come from the least amount of intake, zero being ideal.

And the good news is that cooking without eggs is easy! If you need recipes and advice, you’ll find them here. Eggless cooking is fun, healthy—and it makes listening to the news a lot less disturbing.

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., is director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

1. American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2005 Update. Dallas, Texas: American Heart Association; 2005.
2. Lipid Research Clinics Program. The Lipid Research Clinic's Coronary Primary Prevention Trial Results, II. JAMA. 1984: 251(3):365-374.

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.

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