On October 8th the New York Times published an article by columnist Julie Scelfo, revealing detectable levels of lead in the eggs of city-raised chickens. The article discussed a recent New York City Health Department study, in which researchers found lead in amounts of 10 to 100 parts per billion in roughly half the eggs tested. The other half of the sample was free of lead, as is typically the case with a grocery-bought dozen. The sample eggs were laid by chickens occupying neighborhood gardens in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, which presumably browse on ground-level plants and insects. The article ignited conversation about free-range fowl among urban agriculturalists.
Lead consumption is a serious concern, particularly for young eaters, whose small bodies are more sensitive to contaminants. While Scelfo notes that the Food and Drug Administration has not designated acceptable levels of lead contamination in foods, chicken owners and urban farm supporters alike are undeniably nervous about lead consumption at any level.
How do we prevent lead contamination in urban eggs? Bring your feathered friends to the roof. Grazing rooftop chickens will pick through the soil that you provide, rather than the who knows what down below. By bringing in and building your own soil, you have control over what enters their beaks, and your breakfast. What’s more, is that the chickens will pluck pesky pests from the soil, while fertilizing your rooftop crops! It’s a win-win situation.
Notable rooftop farms like Brooklyn Grange and Eagle Street Rooftop Farm boast resident chickens. These lead-free birds help the farmers, while laying healthy eggs in their rooftop coops. As with many ground-level farms, chickens play an important role in agrarian rooftop ecosystems.
I’ll take my eggs with a sprinkle of salt and a side of potatoes; no lead for me please.