You gotta crack an egg to make an omelet, but who knew you probably had to be okay with a little lead poisoning to raise an urban chicken? Okay, not really poisoning, but still lead. Yup, the increasingly popular Brooklyn pastime of raising chickens has hit an itty, bitty microscopic snag. Elevated levels of lead.
Just how concerned you should be depends on your eggs and who is eating them (careful with the kids, eh?), but here, let the Times scare you a bit after yesterday's fresh Fort Greene fritata:
Henry M. Spliethoff, a research scientist in the Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment for the environmental health center of the State Health Department, tested 58 eggs from chickens living in New York City gardens and found that 28 of them contained lead in amounts of 10 to 73 parts per billion, with one egg having more than 100 parts per billion.
Not sure what exactly that means? As we said, it is complicated. And how much lead is acceptable isn't easy to answer. The Environmental Protection Agency’s "action level" for lead in tap water, for example, is 15 parts per billion, but the FDA has also set "100 parts per billion as the maximum acceptable lead level for candy likely to be consumed frequently by small children." And the EU, meanwhile, says that any non-game poultry with more than 100 parts per billion lead must be taken off the market.
So what is an health-conscious chicken owner to do? Test your chickens! That's what father of two Michael Brownstein did. Not that it helped much! He had all of his six hens tested and found that while some were lead-free some had a wee bit of lead in 'em. Unsure how to proceed he took his test results to his kid's pediatrician and...they all decided it was fine for the tots to eat the eggs.
So! Locally-sourced omelet, anyone?