The following is an opinion editorial peice I wrote for our sustainable, local eaters webpage and magazine: www.tasteoftimmins.com I hope you find it interresting.
The Egg Farmers of Ontario to ask us “who made your eggs today?” on their website www.eggfarmersofontario.ca. Could my instinctual answer of, ‘….um, chickens’, be wrong? Apparently, it was. The Ontario Chicken Farmers' website features videos, peppered with the wholesome themes of country living and home-made kitchen goodness, that would have me believe it was Farmer Marcel, Diane, and Hubert who made my eggs today. They, along with their counterparts, explain the benefit of the family farm - some multi-generational, some modern and innovative - on raising chickens to produce eggs for consumption by Ontarians. Each vignette extols the virtues of egg freshness and nutritional value along with a sense of pride in providing food for their neighbours and community. Green vistas and pastures' unfold before our eyes. We are dazzled by the efficiency of conveyor belts and egg sorters; stacks of gleaming white orbs in their cardboard cocoons beckon. Each video reinforces the message: Ontario egg producers are not faceless corporations; they are neighbours that have the same good family values of hard work and stewardship that we all have. I like these videos. I like these people. They me feel good. They must make great eggs.... "Hey", I say, scratching my head, "Where are the chickens?" Not once do we see a chicken in the videos. There are no feathered friends pecking and scratching in the pastures. We never see a flurry of feathers bathing in dust. Most disturbingly, we do not see the chickens in their cozy laying boxes nesting on a clutch of eggs. Where ARE the CHICKENS? Likely, the egg producers are 'efficiently converting fuel into food' in a battery of wire mesh cages, crammed together under artificial lighting for the entirety of their lives. Because these hens don't spend energy on movement, egg production is maximized. Never mind that they need to be fed antibiotics and have their beaks seared off to prevent infection from fighting and hen pecking. These chickens have little *egg~sposure* to natural behaviors such as nesting and wing-flapping; pecking for insects and running around the yard is not an option. I don't know if the Egg Farmer's featured on the website farm with sustainable, humane practices because we never see the chickens, or even inside the barns. "Who made my eggs today?" Simple: a wonderful hen named Crème Brule, whose antics make us laugh each day as we watch her pecking, bathing, flapping, and running our yard with 8 of her feathered friends.
Mandarn, I started by googling sustainable food and my city. You could also look for eggs and your city, or a farmer's market. It's all about getting to know the area you live in, really, and the people who produce food in your area. It's overwhelming at first, but you'll figure things out soon enough and be well on your way.
"Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." — Albert Einstein
Ok, so how do I find local farms to buy from? I am totally new to this organic thing and am just gathering information right now. This is not something I ever thought I would be doing, but after reading a book, I feel it's the right thing to do.
"A tree with strong roots can withstand the most violent storm. But a tree cannot grow roots just as the storm appears on the horizon." -HH The Dalai Lama
"You can't plow a field by turning it over in your head"
This hits me as I a) both love eggs and b) was raised on cruelty-free bright orange eggs. I try to buy my eggs from the farmer's market when it's open from a fella (even though they're super expensive) but he's usually sold out lol.
"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
Thanks for the article. I never gave my eggs much thought-- I guess I am the reason that companies sell "organic free range eggs." I assumed if it was labeled organic free range it was a) organic and b)free range. I usually buy Nature's Promise at Stop & Shop-- which according to the score card gets a 0 since it can't be traced to a particular farm. Luckily, there is a family-run farm near me that I've been to a few times with actual free range chickens. I see them running around every time I go to their market. I guess that's where I'll be getting my eggs from now on!
While it's no secret that many companies adhere to only the most minimal organic standards and some label themselves as organic without even doing that, this serves as a great reminder to be familiar with where your food comes from. I prefer to get my eggs from the farmers market and from a co-worker whose parents have a few hens at their house. I only rarely buy eggs from the store, but each time I do, I know that I am risking not really knowing how those eggs were produced. I feel especially skeptical of mainstream (conventional) egg and store brands that have branched into organic as well. I think in those cases it's clear that they just want a share of the market, but don't really care about the principles behind it.
You'll also find a link within that story above to the Cornucopia Institutes scorecard for egg producers. Seems like it's mostly smaller regional farms, but a few national brands (like Organic Valley) are represented there, too.
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