The recent recall of over 500 million (!) eggs by Iowa egg producers begs an examination of the egg industry, clearly, but also our choices as consumers. Most of the U.S.’s 300 million people eat eggs. In fact, there is about one laying hen per person in the U.S., each producing a couple of hundred eggs per year, about their laying life. No question (to those who eat them) they taste good, are a good source of protein, they’re cheap, they’re extremely versatile. With so many eggs needed, the business of producing them has become more and more efficient, which is not so good for the chicken, as with other “livestock”.
I will not pursue the gruesome issues here, but a few facts about the industry might be helpful when shopping for eggs. Millions of new laying hens are being born every year. The male chicks (half of those born) are useless in this business, and so are killed and disposed of. Most laying hens live in tight quarters, in cages surrounded by conveyor belts. Their waste is automatically carried away, as are their eggs. In recent years the term “cage free” has become increasingly common in grocery store egg racks. This means that they live indoors their entire brief lives free to walk around with hundreds or thousands of other chickens. The conditions are not sanitary (they may even be more so in the cages). “Free range” means that they must have access to outdoors, so that they can roam and peck, as chickens are wont to do. Now, you may find “pastured” eggs. The implication is that these birds eat what they normally would insects and worms in their lives outdoors. It is a proven truth, that eggs are healthier for us, when they come from healthier birds who have better lives.
Regulations are appearing around the U.S. and in many other countries towards a healthier business, but large scale production probably can not ever be humane, as it requires such economy of means. Buying locally farmed and pastured eggs is the best choice, if you are lucky enough to have it.
^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
Barbara Hirsch, recording engineer, eco-person
“Unless someone like you cares a whole lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
– The Lorax, Children’s book by Dr. Seuss
Ecofacts blogs presented by Green Products Global: