Why did the chicken cross the road?

Robert's eggs straight from the coop

[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!]


view of Tuscany from the hammock


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!

they were alarmed at my approach and cackled like watch dogs

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,

Roberts chickens don't know how lucky they are - or do they?

“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 Instituteorganic 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.

Robert and Tracy's farmhouse built in 1781

So why did the chicken cross the road?

She was on her way to find Robert and Tracy’s farm.


About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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13 Responses to Why did the chicken cross the road?

  1. Josee says:

    A wonderfully informative, disturbing blog about a very smart chicken!
    From now on I, too, will only buy eggs from the farmer’s market.
    Thanks Rosie!

    • dearrosie says:

      Thanks for writing Josee. I’m glad that you’re going to buy your eggs at the farmer’s market. Those eggs have such yellow yolks and taste so good you’ll be eating more eggs.

  2. boris says:

    As a student traveling in the South of France in winter of 1972, looking for relief from the frigid nights sleep in our van, we headed for the Cote d’Azur, near Cap d’Antibes. The sun began to warm the road, we hoped for a cafe to buy a hot drink and a bun, but there near the road and on the seaward side was an old stone gateway, big enough for a man and a goat. A wrought iron arch spanned the rough pillars, and embedded in one of them was an enameled plaque with the words: “Œufs à vendre”. No qualifier was necessary, or any other inducement. A half-dozen still-warm eggs were put into a straw-lined box and handed to us with great politeness and ceremony. We were invited in for tea and a view of the Mediterranean from a room that I shall never forget.

  3. E fullstop says:

    Thanks for the post, Ro. As a vegetarian with one foot in veganism, eggs have been my albatross. They are the animal product I most commonly consume, are the most challenging for me to give up, and as you point out, the real story behind where eggs come from is often heartbreaking and a relatively ethical path is hard to ascertain.

    I have friends and co-workers who are experimenting with keeping their own chickens. Unfortunately, that’s not an option for an apartment dweller living in a densely urbanized part of the city. I keep my fingers crossed every time I buy eggs at the farmers’ market. I hope that I’m buying into something sustainable, but I don’t actually know…I haven’t asked the chickens.

    I haven’t been there, but have heard good things about the raw food store Rawsome
    in Santa Monica (not technically a store but a member club…something having to do with the FDA or other such regulatory agency not permitting raw items be sold regularly on the market). I’m told they sell unwashed, unrefrigerated eggs.

  4. dearrosie says:

    Thanks so much for adding your voice to the discussion, I always enjoy your comments e. We too have thought of keeping chickens, but we know our neighbors wouldn’t think it cute if we had chickens clacking on our patio.

    A store/club in L.A. that sells unwashed, unrefrigerated eggs? Really? Let’s go check it out.

  5. Great post, Rosie! Lots of facts I sure didn’t know (like about the chlorine bath and petroleum coating, for instance! and TJ’s organic factory-farmed eggs…yikes!!) I went up to my friend Montene’s house (she rescues raptors and runs a nonprofit called Hawk Talk in Georgia) — and her chickens ran out to meet me and they were the most beautiful, healthy, adorable things I’ve ever seen. I totally want chickens now! And that way — you know that the eggs haven’t been contaminated. (And pissing off my obnoxious neighbor is just gravy! ) xoxxo B

  6. dearrosie says:

    I’m glad that you now know some of the awful truths about American *eggs* Betty, and also glad that I’ve shown you a simple way to piss off your neighbor!

  7. Dr. Ed Wethli says:

    As a poultry specialist I found your article comprehensive and interesting. However, not all large commercial farms are as bad as you indicate – it is not economically viable to treat their chickens in that way. And, unfortunately, we cannot feed the population of the world on free-range poultry produce as there just is not enough good pasture space available. Free-range also has it’s own set of problems.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for writing Dr Wethli. Its an honor to have a poultry specialist stop by my blog. I was interested in your comment that not all commercial farms are so bad – that gives me hope –
      but I was surprised that you think there isn’t enough good pasture space to feed the world and, free range has its own problems. Where can we read more about those problems?

  8. Fantastic, well-written post, Rosie! I do remember reading somewhere that “cage-free” in some cases means that the chickens are let out for as little as an hour a day. I’m with you 100%… We’ve been getting our eggs from a local farm where we see the chickens out and about, pecking the ground for insects and other goodies. The eggs come in all sizes and colors – it’s always a delightful surprise to open the box – and as you say, they taste so much better than any found in a grocery store.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Barbara,
      Sorry I somehow missed replying to this comment. Being able to buy one’s eggs from the source is the BEST way to go. You can see that the chickens are running about and pecking the ground, and too the eggs aren’t all standard size which is what happens in *real* life.

      Even though we buy our eggs from small suppliers at the farmer’s markets near home, they aren’t nearly as tasty as the eggs we ate from the Italian chickens!

  9. Pingback: #BAD11. Another BAD Blog | Wondering Rose

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