Lead in Backyard Eggs: Don’t Freak Out But Don’t Ignore the Issue

Image: UC Cooperative Extension.

Back in 2018 UC Davis began a study of heavy metal contamination of eggs from backyard chicken flocks. The study analyzed eggs from 344 California residences using Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry to look for arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and and nickel.

The overall results for the study show that the main metal to worry about is lead, though some of the samples showed elevated levels of mercury and cadmium that could be a concern. The maximum lead level found was 27.97 ug/egg which is well over the maximum recommended exposure level of 3 ug for children and 12.5 ug for adults. That said, the average was 1.39 ug of lead.

I was eager to participate in this study since we found elevated lead levels in our soil when we did a series of soil tests back in 2011. Thankfully our egg results came in at 1.02 ug, just under the average level in the study. You’d have to eat a lot of eggs as an adult to go beyond the Federal Drug Administration’s maximum recommended lead intake level, though you could bump up against it if a child ate more than three eggs a day.

I’d suggest that if you live in an older urban location, next to a gas station or other industrial site or a recently burned area you may want to get your eggs tested. Odds are that your backyard eggs are safe to eat but, as the study showed, some of the lead results were well over safe levels.

Here’s what UC Cooperative Extension suggests if you have a lead issue,

Once potentially contaminated areas are identified, it is your job to prevent your chickens from coming in contact with those areas! You may choose to completely remove access to these areas or add clean cover material (soil, mulch, etc.) to reduce contact with or ingestion of contaminated soil. If you choose to use cover material, remember to inspect the cover regularly and add/maintain material as needed.

To further prevent ingestion of contaminated soil, provide chickens’ regular feed in feeders, and avoid scattering feed, including scratch grains and food scraps, on bare ground. Also, avoid feeding chickens unwashed garden scraps from these areas.

Consider providing a calcium supplement, which may help to reduce the amount of lead that gets into chickens’ eggs.

While we got a free test out of the study (thank you UC Davis!), you can have your eggs tested for a fee by contacting the California Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) laboratory (phone: 530-752-8700).

RIP Chef Ernest Miller and Dr. Tracy McFarland

Ernest Miller
It is with great sadness that I relay the news of the passing of chef Ernest Miller and veterinarian Dr. Tracy Elizabeth McFarland. Both were guests on previous episodes of the Root Simple podcast.

I had the great privilege of taking chef Miller’s Master Food Preserver training. Chef Miller’s knowledge of food preservation and safety was encyclopedic. Whenever I had a question I’d send Ernie an email. He was an accomplished chef, teacher, Navy veteran and a kind and gracious person who volunteered countless hours of his time. There is no replacement for him.

The Celebration of Life for Ernest Miller is on Monday October 1, and will begin at 12:30-4pm at Rose Hills Mortuary Visitation Center located at 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier and will conclude at 5pm-7pm at the LDS Chapel located at 7505 Garvalia Ave in Rosemead. His brother-in-law has set up a memorial fund to pay for funeral expenses.

Dr. McFarland’s was the most talented and dedicated veterinarian I have ever met. Her diagnostic and surgical skill were legendary. The last time I saw her back in April, for an appointment for one of our cats, she talked about the many times she would head back to her cat-only clinic, late at night, to check on patients. Like Ernie, she was one of those people completely dedicated to her craft, which was all about reducing the suffering of our animal companions. When she entered into hospice earlier this month she posted the following message to Facebook:

What a privilege it has been to welcome your cats to our family, I have loved every minute. I wish I could tell you personally how much each one of you mean to me. Some of you may know that I have been very sick lately. I’m at a point in my life now that God is calling me home. I want you to know I am well taken care of, comfortable and surrounded by my family. I wish you all much love, good health, good humor, and the strength to get through this time. My wonderful team will be there for you during this transition and through the times ahead. The Cat Doctor & Friends will continue my dream of providing honest, compassionate care with integrity. With much love and appreciation, your friend and sister Dr. Tracy.

A memorial service for Dr. Tracy will be held this Saturday September 29th at 10am in the worship center at Grace Baptist Church located at 22833 Copper Hill Drive in Santa Clarita. See the Cat Doctor and Friends Facebook page for information on charities you can donate to in honor of Dr. Tracy.

You can listen to Dr. McFarland on episodes 36 and 46 of our podcast. You can hear Ernie discuss pressure canning on episode 14.

123 Beekeeping Mistakes I Have Made

On the podcast this week is a recording of a talk I gave to the Long Beach Beekeepers on Sunday August 5th 2018.

Several times you’ll hear me refer to the “Backwards Beekeepers.” The Backwards Beekeepers were a group in Los Angeles that promoted a radical style of natural beekeeping. The group’s mentor was Kirk Anderson who you can hear on episode 40 of this podcast.

I’d like to thank the Long Beach Beekeepers for inviting me to speak. Unfortunately, I had to cut out the question and answer session because of poor recording quality but I’d like to encourage any of you in the Long Beach area to attend one of their meetings. It’s a great group.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

121 Beekeeping, Fireworks, Solar Power and Extending Wi-Fi with Will of the Weekend Homestead

Will of the Weekend Homestead returns to the Root Simple podcast to talk about how to get into beekeeping without busting the bank, fireworks, rigging up a simple solar power system and extending your wi-fi. During the podcast we discuss:

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.