Where Have All The Rotten Eggs Gone?

After cracking more eggs for more breakfasts for more years than I can count, I recently had a thought: Gee, I haven't see a rotten egg since...the 1990s.

Most people would welcome such a realization with gratitude, but I started to worry. Ever since I worked in a commercial kitchen in 1990, I've been meticulously careful about never cracking an egg into a larger bowl of eggs, for fear of adding a spoiled one to the mix. So I've done as I was told: I cracked each egg into a separate bowl, and then added it to its unborn brethren when I saw that it was OK. This system saved me a couple times from rotten eggs in the early 90s, but since then...no bad eggs.

What happened to the rotten eggs?

I called up Pete & Gerry's, a major New Hampshire supplier of organic eggs, and spoke to Gerry's son, Jesse Laflamme, who is the CEO ("I guess," he said with classic New Englander humility) and co-owner of the farm. Laflamme zeroed in on the probable cause of the disappearance of the rotten eggs. "There have been some changes in the storage and transportation of eggs," said Laflamme, who referred me to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Sanitary Food Transportation Act. Sure enough, the set of regulations were passed in 1990, which was right around the last time I came across a rotten egg.

The legislation required that eggs be transported in refrigeration below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and that all eggs be refrigerated within 36 hours of being laid. Before the ruling, eggs could bake away from chicken to store, which would of course increase chances for spoilage or the spread of salmonella. Additionally, grading systems have improved, as well as the implementation of computer vision and strobe systems that better weed out the bad eggs.

"I'm not going to lie and say that we don't get a call or two once a year about a rotten egg," Laflamme says. He attributes those bad eggs to a missed one that may have gotten stuck in a nest and sat around for while before it got picked up.

That doesn't compare to the wholesale infractions perpetrated by some of the factory farms, as revealed in the scandals and salmonella scares of a couple years ago. The worst kind of rotten eggs, in Laflamme's opinion, are the ones that come from being laid in those cages where there are dead chickens that have been left to rot, as was seen in underground video shot by animal rights group Mercy for Animals.

With some 350 million chickens laying eggs in factory farms, there's gotta be more than just a few rotten eggs out there. Maybe I've been lucky, buy I almost always buy organic eggs, so that has probably helped keep my no-bad-eggs streak alive so long.

Laflamme says that he's never come across a rotten egg in the kitchen himself, and maybe that's partly because he's 34, a few years younger than me, so he came of age after the regulations were created.

Just think, all these whipper snappers who have little to no idea what it's like to crack an egg for breakfast and be hit with that rank, sulfurous odor.

But, believe me, you young punks, you have no idea. The rotten egg is not, like some monster under a bridge, a thing of legend. They were real. And they were nasty. But times have changed. And I think I can stop cracking eggs with fear that I'm going to come upon a bad one. I'm more likely to be bitten by a troll.

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