Nebraska is often called the beef state. Beef is said to be the state’s largest agricultural industry followed by corn and soy beans. But what about chickens? You may not believe it but poultry is a very large and diverse industry in Nebraska and the products that come from poultry like meat and eggs are important in a healthy diet for most Americans. A large contribution to the poultry industry is chicken egg production. According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture Nebraska has a laying hen population of more than 9 million birds and is home to two of the largest egg processing plants in the United States. Because of these assets, Nebraska ranks tenth in the nation for commercial egg production. Nebraska’s hens produce over two billion eggs each year. A laying hen, or a female chicken starts laying eggs at 19 weeks of age and will produce one egg every 24-26 hours. In order to make that happen the hen must have the proper nutrition. Poultry health can be connected to soybeans. According to information gathered by the Nebraska Soybean board, soybean meal is an excellent source of amino acids and crude protein that hens need to produce eggs. Eggs are very important to human nutrition. According to the Egg Nutrition Center, as a laying hen ages the size of the egg she
produces become larger. A large egg only contains 70 calories. Most of which are located in the yellow colored yoke of the egg. The egg whites contain very few calories. Although the egg whites contain few calories, most of the egg’s minerals are found in the yoke along with 40% of the egg’s overall protein and the vitamins D, E &A. The golden shade of the yoke depends on the diet of the hen. Natural yellow/orange substances such as marigold petals may be added to poultry feed to enhance the colors to create a deeper gold. The nutrition center also states that contrary to popular belief there is actually no nutritional difference in eggs regardless of their color, grade or if they were raised organic, free range or conventionally. To promote the passing along of good health from chicken to egg many large operations vaccinate chickens to prevent future diseases like salmonella. According to the Center for Disease Control eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious economical foods but you must take special care when preparing fresh eggs to avoid the growth of food-born illness. The inside of an egg may look normal but it may contain a germ called salmonella. Because salmonella is a form of food poisoning, it can not be passed from person to person or hen to hen like a cold. When chickens come in contact with salmonella they usually get it from ingesting a substance with the germ already in it like rat droppings. According to the world health organization, completely eradicating salmonella is very unlikely. Instead the W.H.O. recommends we take steps to prevent the passing of salmonella. Wash any eggs that appear dirty and throw away any cracked or broken eggs. Eggs should also be refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder at all times. Wash your hands, counter tops and any utensils after coming in contact with raw eggs. Eggs should be cooked until both the egg white and yoke are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter to kill any bacteria. As long as the food has been properly cooked it is safe to eat. As you have just heard there is a great amount of thinking and science that goes into production, marketing, and safety of Nebraska’s chicken egg industry. Without the chicken egg we would have to find alternative sources
to supplement much of the protein, vitamins and
minerals that the egg fulfills in our diet. So the next time you think about the beef
state don’t forget the poultry.