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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Protecting Chickens from Salmonella Starts With the Egg

By Jill Lee

ATHENS, Ga., Dec. 8--A simple three-step process can help poultry producers keep Salmonella and other food pathogens out of poultry--and may increase profits. It all begins with the egg, according to scientists at the Agricultural Research Service.

“Three simple steps will reduce the Salmonella threat for egg-hatching and poultry-production operations," said ARS microbiologist Mark Berrang. "The steps involve cleaning the eggs, treating chicks with a safe spray and using beneficial microbes to protect growing birds.

“Taking these measures can also net higher prices for those who produce fertile eggs for meat production,” said Berrang, at the agency’s Richard B. Russell Agricultural Research Center in Athens, Ga.

Berrang outlined the steps as follows:

  • Farmers spray freshly laid eggs with a mild detergent and a reliable farm disinfectant chemical. This lowers surface contamination from bacteria.
  • Hatcheries spray a fine mist of hydrogen peroxide or other effective chemical in the cabinet while chicks are hatching. This protects the newly hatched chicks from airborne Salmonella.
  • Benign gut bacteria from healthy mature chickens can be given to young chicks to prevent colonization by Salmonella in the grow-out house. As a result, even if chicks come in contact with Salmonella, they will not become infected.

Working with a farmer, Berrang confirmed the effectiveness of the first step. This producer found cleaning and disinfecting eggs paid for itself. That's because more of the eggs would could be sold at a higher price. A dozen clean hatching eggs sell for about 30 cents. Dirty or stained eggs sell for only about 7 cents a dozen for use in pasteurized egg products.

The difference can be important to a producer’s pocketbook. ARS scientists estimate that a large-scale farm selling millions of eggs annually could recover the cost of the spraying equipment in two years.

Scientific contact: Mark Berrang, ARS Richard B. Russell Agricultural Research Center, Poultry Processing and Meat Quality Research Unit , Athens, Ga., phone (706) 546-3551, fax (706) 546-3633,

Last Modified: 5/15/2017
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