Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Free Range Eggs

I bought my first dozen free range eggs at the Raleigh farmer's market. It was fun to buy a dozen eggs straight from the farmers who raised the chickens--and they definitely tasted better than the grocery store eggs. They were brown too!

After reading about how most of our meat and eggs are raised in confinement animal feeding operations (CAFOs) I've started to think about my food choices a lot more. I'm not a PETA member--I do think that animals are there for our use and benefit--but there should be limits to cruelty and CAFOs probably go too far. If you want to be persuaded just look up a pig factory on Youtube. I couldn't watch an entire clip because it just made me feel ill. The sows are kept in gestation pens measuring 2x7 feet for most of their adult lives according to the Wikipedia article on CAFOs (too lazy to link--just look up CAFO).

Of course there is a trade-off. The free range eggs cost about three times what the store eggs cost. We spend a much smaller percentage of our incomes on food than our grandparents did. We have more choice in our foods. But what about the costs that are externalized by this process? What have we done to our animals, soil, water systems, and rural communities? What are the costs to our health? Subsidized corn and soybean production have created an abundance of cheap, processed food that most certainly contribute to the obesity epidemic in our country.

For me this issue has always been out of sight, out of mind. For as much as I've followed environmental issues this one just slipped past me. Now that I am more aware, where do I go from here? My budget doesn't have space to just replace all meat and eggs with locally and humanely grown products. For now my plan of action is to try and reduce the factory-farmed meat and eggs in my diet and replace it with a lesser amount of products that I feel good about. I'll make up the caloric shortfall with more grains, fruits and vegetables--fresh produce isn't cheap either though. Your thoughts . . .