Eggs Over Easy
Food Issues Book Club - The Ethics of What We Eat, Chapter 8

Hello all!  Welcome to the NOiG Food Issues Book Club, wherein I read books about food stuff, summarize each book by chapter, and then attempt to apply that book chapter's ideas to the New Orleans food environment and my own experiences.  Fun right?!  Check out previous installations here.  I'd love it if you'd read along and join in!  And now, without further ado...

The Ethics of What We Eat, Chapter 8:
Behind the Label: "Organic" and "Certified Humane" Eggs

Hello Jim and Peter.  We're talking about eggs again?  I feel like I'm going in circles a lil bit...  But I suppose we should get to it.  In the eighth chapter of The Ethics of What We Eat, which I am now choosing to call Eggs Again because tl:dr on that chapter title, we dive into the magical mystical world of egg labeling once again.

It really is magical I think - as in magical thinking.  I've encountered SO many people who think eggs with an organic label come from chickens who live in cute little hen houses like in the cartoons.  Granted, the chickens that you met at the Pete and Gerry's egg farm are far better off than chickens who live in battery cages.  But is that really saying much?  Better is not the same as good.  They still have their beaks seared.  They're still slaughtered very young.  And while they maybe technically have access to the outdoors occasionally, the farmer you met with all but told you that that part of the organic standard is ignored industry-wide "for fear of disease."  Yeah.  OK.

The Certified Humane label, developed by Humane Farm Animal Care under the guidance of the HSUS and ASPCA, is more alarming - and is somehow also held by these farmers who keep chickens in a shed.  The word "humane" is right in there on the label, and that word carries weight with the average consumer.  Per your explanation, "the standards are intended to be commercially realistic."  Read: profitable.

Your discussion of thoughts after the visit to Pete and Gerry's makes me think that we are seeing quite eye to eye on this subject:
"Driving back through the glorious New Hampshire scenery, we discussed what we had seen.  The birds seemed reasonably contented and looked much better off than caged hens.  But we were disturbed by the fact that there were so many of them in a single shed, effectively unable to go outside, and certainly never able to enjoy scratching around in grass, or to be part of a normal-size flock in which they get to know each other as individuals.  And of course, after 56 weeks of laying, these hens were going to be sent off to be killed.  Hens commonly live for more than five years, and some have passed ten years of age, but after just one year of laying, hens start to lay fewer eggs, and it becomes uneconomic to keep them."
It seems, based on this chapter, that even with such important-sounding labels as "organic" and "certified humane," in the end money wins out over animal welfare.  How sad.  How unsurprising.

But hey, what is life without some levity?  People still think this is how chickens live. HA HA HA.


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