A New York State Health Department scientist discovered that chickens raised in public gardens in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens are producing eggs that test positive for varying levels of lead. The FDA doesn’t have an established limit for lead level specific to eggs, the Times reports, but even very small amounts of the metal can sicken or poison a child.
Even if the urban eggs’ lead content isn’t sufficiently high to sicken people, perhaps we should hold off on the leaded omelettes anyhow? Last year, The New Yorker detected the “smoky aftertaste of city exhaust fumes” in a salad of hyperlocal greens grown on a West Village rooftop, and the idea that chickens may have heavy-metal-polluted roosts thwarts the perceived benefit of locavorism in pretty much the same way. Michael Brownstein, a Fort Greene philosophy professor whose chicken’s eggs also tested positive for lead, says it’s easy to get confused. After learning that his eggs contained twice the amount of the acceptable daily intake level for small children, Brownstein consulted his pediatrician, who gave him the go-ahead to cook the eggs for his kids. The professor wishes there were better guidelines. “Thinking about the right way to eat,” he says, “is a benefit and a curse.”