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 . . .


  1. It's a tough call--the problem is that the good stuff is so much more expensive and hard to come by. We've been thinking about it a lot lately too.
    I got some "cage-free" eggs at the store yesterday, they're brown and only about 20 to 40 cents more than the normal eggs. But what does cage free mean exactly? It conjurs up images of chickens roaming fields wild and free, but I have a feeling it just means that they're all in a big warehouse jumbled up together. What do you think?
    And I agree, farm fresh eggs really do taste better. We have a grocery store out here that stocks them, but they are really expensive, in fact the whole store is quite a bit more expensive than normal so we don't go there a lot....

  2. Too bad we don't live close to my dad's chicken coup, eh? I'm a huge advocate for organic. Even if you're not eating exclusively organic, adding a few things here and there is healthier for you and the earth. The most important food to eat organic is dairy products, especially those with high fat content, as that is where all the pesticides and hormones are stored and passed on (butter, cream, cheese, and milk)--especially for those who are pregnant and young children. Their bodies are so vulnerable as they're developing, that all the pesticides and hormones in their food and environment has an exponential effect on their tiny bodies. We don't eat huge amounts of meat, but that is important as well. Fresh Air on NPR did an interview with Devra Davis about this topic--highly recommend it (she also has a few books out that are good reads--is that proper English?)

    To sum it up: do what you can afford now, even a little bit more, because, in the long run, your health will thank you for it.