Occupy

On February 27th [2012], there was a global day of action encouraging people to Occupy Our Food Supply, and to “ensure that we can stand by the food we eat, from farm to fork.” It got me thinking about the little ways that we can all “occupy” our household food supplies; we are not going to be able to take down agribusiness individually, but I really believe that each choice that we make as individuals can have an impact. With that in mind, I offer you: a reflection on eggs.

We choose to get our eggs from Fifth Crow Farm: here is a great video about why. I think this falls in the category of an Occupied Kitchen for several reasons. For starters, industrial poultry and eggs in this country are a horrid, disgusting business, where poor farmers become indentured to big agribusinesses and profits are prioritized over animal welfare to gruesome end. I won’t buy ‘conventional’ poultry, and eggs are part of the same system.

But why not buy the “Organic” and “Cage Free” eggs at my grocery store? Well, I used to – and I think that they are a big step in the right direction, away from conventional egg production. But even organic and cage free eggs don’t take it all the way. As Teresa writes on the Fifth Crow website, happier hens mean healthier, tastier eggs:

Labeling like  “Free-Range”, “vegetarian fed”, “humane” can be misleading and confusing.  Although there are differences between these categories, they generally all refer to operations of 1,000 hens or more in large warehouses under artificial light or in some cases no light at all.  These hens eat a grain based diet of primarily corn and soy.  “Cage Free” simply means that within these warehouses they aren’t in cages.  “Free-Range”  means they have access to an outdoor run – but birds who’ve grown up inside will rarely go out, and there isn’t enough room for them all to be outside anyways.  “Vegetarian fed” just means they’re not being supplemented with meat scraps or other animal bi-products, a common industry practice.   [In contrast], our hens are outside almost all the time,  eat as much green grass and bugs as they want, and have a completely different life than any hen raised in a conventional setting.

And then there is the issue of quality – with their bright orange yolks and delicately colored shells, eggs raised at Fifth Crow are not only ethically sound, they are also beautiful and tasty! There is even research to indicate that they are healthier for us. In a nutshell – or, perhaps, an eggshell (!): by buying eggs from a farm where they are produced sustainably and healthfully, we are supporting ethical egg production, while getting to eat tastier eggs and simultaneously helping our beloved local organic farm. Occupy!

In closing, I’ll leave you with this hopeful quote from the awesome  Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat and Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.  I think she is more eloquently getting at the point I am trying to make about the eggs, and about how small steps can ultimately make big differences. She writes:

While the food industry digs in to fight public health regulations, the food movement will continue to attract support from those willing to promote a healthier and more sustainable food system. Watch for more young people going into farming and more farmers’ markets, farm-to-school programs, school meal initiatives, and grassroots community efforts to implement food programs and legislate local reforms. There is plenty of hope for the future in local efforts to improve school meals, reduce childhood obesity, and make healthier food more available and affordable for all.