Friday, July 18, 2008

The 35¢ egg

Egg.I spent $4.25 on a dozen eggs the other day. That works out to a little over 35¢ an egg. Yes, that's a lot to pay for eggs.

I paid so much for these eggs because they came from hens that were "pastured," meaning that they spent their days in pastures rather than chicken coops. (And please note that "pastured" is not the same as "free-range." Free-range means that the chickens are "offered" the opportunity to go outside of the coop via a trapdoor during certain periods of the day should they choose to do so. Given the intellectual capacity of a chicken, this is the same as offering them free cable.)

I decided that paying so much extra for eggs was worth it after reading this passage from Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma,

... [The American laying hen] spends her brief span of days piled together with a half-dozen other hens in a wire cage the floor of which four pages of this book could carpet wall to wall. Every natural instinct of this hen is thwarted, leading to a range of "vices" that can include cannibalizing her cage mates and rubbing her breast against the wire mesh until it is completely bald and bleeding...Pain? Suffering? Madness? The operative suspension of disbelief depends on the acceptance of more neutral descriptors, such as "vices" and "stereotypes" and "stress." But whatever you want to call what goes on in those cages, the 10 percent or so of hens that can't endure it and simply die is built into the cost of production. And when the output of the survivors begins to ebb, the hens will be "force-molted" -- starved of food and water and light for several days in order to stimulate a final bout of egg laying before their life's work is done.

Okay, please understand, I am not here to lecture you on the morality of buying eggs. The surest way to damn any cause you believe in is to become an extremest and start brow beating. I am saying that, along with other changes to my eating habits this year, I have also made this one. It is a personal choice.

It's not just altruism, however. These eggs taste really good. And given the varied diet the hens responsible for them enjoyed, and the lack of hormones and antibiotics, they are better for me too.

I'll shut up now, except to wish you all a great weekend.


todd Zalewski said...

Cheers to you Dan.
Yes, 35cents for a great tasting egg is fine.
We are just about ready to start seeing the
ugly-ripe tomatoe at our local farmer's market.
One ugly-ripe costs as much as a dozen tomatoes of the same size at a supermarket. But no supermarket tomatoe can ever taste as wondefully good as a farmer's market ugly-ripe. We only see them during August to the first week or so of September. But I eat them at almost ever meal during that time. It is O.K. when they are no longer available, because I have had my fill of them.
And I don't crave them in February.
I like the philosophy of eating locally and eating what is in season.

Anonymous said...

If I could buy pastured eggs I would.

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

(Given the intellectual capacity of a chicken, this is the same as offering them free cable) Seriously, you trip me out! That was hilarious.....

I have been wanting to read that book ever since I finished Botany of Desire......thanks for the excerpt!

Guess where I'm going this weekend?!?!
The Smokies!

Lori said...

What a great post and a good message. I visited a chicken farm once years ago and it was horrible. I definitely wanted to give up eggs. Eggs from pastured chickens is a great idea.

Halcyon said...

35 cents for an egg doesn't sound like too much for me. ITA with your views on food and good on you for making some personal changes!

When I lived in France, you could buy single eggs from the "bio" shelf. I really liked that because I don't like to eat eggs by themselves, but sometimes you need one or two for a cake.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of truth in your post. It could also talk about veal where animals are kept in sheds so tight they cannot move so the muscles are soft and tender. We do some awful things to the animals we slaughter and eat.

We always raised chickens when I was at home growing up. The chickens only have a set number of eggs in their egg sacks and that is all they can ever lay. They do take a break, if they are given the chance, and will not lay. My mom bought her peeps from Sears and Roebuck. She took "whatever" because you had no choice. Some were roosters, some were hens and some were white and red and black and so on.

She raised them and we ate the roosters as they matured but she kept one or two roosters to fertilize the eggs should she choose to have more peeps and not buy more. If more roosters came than hens, then she would let the hens set their eggs if they were fertilized. In the end we would get a few more hens in that process.

But when the hens stopped laying, mom would give them a break or two and then she simply turned the light on so that it was on 24 hours a day and the hens would start laying again.

Our chickens ate mash or cracked corn if we could afford to buy it and then they were allowed to eat all the bugs they could find and they ate all the green things they could find including green onion tops mom would throw into the chicken pen. Those eggs from those chickens would then taste like green onions and smelled like them.

You would do well to find a local Amish or German Baptist would butchers and buy your meat from them. They animals are not mistreated and are slaughtered almost in Biblical ways. We have a group here that has a store open three days a week and you can buy bread, rolls, pies, cakes, fresh meat of all kinds and it is all good.

Carl said...

I'd like to second the comment on supermarket tomatoes. They've managed to create a tomato with absolutely nothing of what makes that food any good.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dan. I've worked on commercial egg farms and I am done with cage eggs.

My family used to buy eggs from Dan's family. Their chickens definitely had a more Foghorn Leghorn-like existence.