[I took all the photos in this post at Robert and Tracy G’s farm near Pisa, Italy. The best eggs we’ve ever eaten!]
How much thought do you give to the eggs you purchase, do you notice the label stuck on the box and choose one with sunbeams, green fields, or farm houses, or just buy the cheapest you can find this week, or perhaps you are very concerned for your family’s health and pay extra for organic, or maybe you care about the *chickens*, and pay top dollar for organic free-range at a local farm?
Before World War II most egg farms in the U.S. had flocks of less than 400 hens, in 2010 about 95% of the eggs we eat in this country comes from huge egg “factories”: about 245 egg producers have more than 75,000 hens, and 12 have more than 5 million. That’s not a misprint – FIVE MILLION chickens – and they call it a “farm”? Help!
I’m sure most of you have driven past one of those huge egg operations in the United States without realizing that there are around half a million chickens in each “farm”, and if you were ever allowed behind those nice clean walls you’d be shocked to see the conditions, how four or five birds are squashed in a cage, standing on wire “floors” that make their feet bleed, with no space to move around, or stretch their wings, never allowed to forage for food or see the light of day
Cal-Maine is the largest egg producer in the country, selling 778 million eggs last year, or 18% of the US market from their factory farms.
An undercover worker of the Humane Society of the USA who recently spent a month working at a Cal-Maine egg farm in Texas captured it all on video: the over-crowded conditions the caged chickens live in, how they often end up standing on dead birds, laying their eggs on corpses … It’s horrifying, and no doubt the cause of the two recent Salmonella outbreaks. Cal-Maine recalls a quarter-million eggs
All of this means that in the United States less than 5% of farmer’s allow their chickens to live cage free as on Robert and Tracy’s farm. Chickens are smart, as I approached the hen-house, the Italian rooster sent out a call “Hark a stranger approaches!” and everyone (chickens and guinea fowl) joined him in the loudest cackling I’ve ever heard, and only stopped after I went up to the house and lay on the hammock. Another post on that!
Mr F and I buy organic cage-free eggs, and willingly pay extra for them, because we think the use of the term “organic” means they’re laid by happy healthy chickens who are running around outside pecking at the ground.
Not so. The Cornucopia Institute’s two-year-long investigation into organic egg farms shows that about 80 percent of the market’s certified organic eggs actually come from the same massive factory farms as those producing non-organic eggs,
“a high percentage of the eggs on the market should be labeled ‘produced with organic feed‘ rather than bearing the USDA-certified organic logo,” because many of these birds never actually get to set foot outdoors.
We buy our eggs from small family farms at the farmer’s market, but have occasionally bought T.J’s “organic eggs“. When I looked at the Cornucopia Institute “organic egg scorecard” list which shows ethical family farms, and exposes factory farm producers and which brands to avoid in the grocery store, I was horrified to see that Trader Joes organic eggs fell in the factory farmed section. I’m very disappointed T.J’s!
It is standard industry practice to wash eggs.
In some U.S. States all eggs have to be washed in a chlorine bath, which damages the egg’s outer protective cuticle, (like our nails) so the damaged cuticle must be coated with something, usually mineral oil “a petroleum product never intended for consumption”. In simple English, everything crosses over the semi-permeable shell membrane and ends up in the egg, and you eat it all with your breakfast egg-n-toast.”
Some egg producers don’t wash in chlorine, some use vegetable oil, you’ll only find out if you ask the farmers directly.
And finally, when we were in Italy last year I noticed that everyone kept their eggs out of the refrigerator. I wondered why, and now find out it’s simply because Grade “A” eggs in Europe aren’t washed, so they aren’t refrigerated, and as Dr Mercola explains, a fresh egg with an intact cuticle does NOT need to be refrigerated
Hilary Thesmar, director of the The American Egg Board Egg Safety Center:
“The bottom line is shelf life. The shelf life for an unrefrigerated egg is 7 to 10 days and for refrigerated, it’s 30 to 45 days.”
A national movement away from caged hens has begun, and companies like Pepperidge Farm, Sara Lee, Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Harry & David, Costco and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise have pledged to buy only cage-free eggs.
So why did the chicken cross the road?
She was on her way to find Robert and Tracy’s farm.