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The truth about cage free eggs

Posted Feb 17 2011 12:00am
This week I have had the pleasure of enjoying my uncle Jack's company :) He is in the middle of moving from Colorado to Arkansas to be closer to his daughter, and stopped in sunny Florida along the way to visit his younger sister (my mother) and... me! hehe. He has the craziest and wildest stories and is such a hoot that I usually end up laughing all night long at our dinner parties. Sometimes I pee my pants a little...lol...you get my drift.

Uncle Jack and I like to pick each other's brains and we had a pretty lively discussion the other day about my veggie eating habits. He rationed with me that although he believes in eating more vegetables he can't imagine giving up meat entirely because, well---even the cavemen ate meat! I shot back at him with the fact that we have evolved from cavemen days, and we are no longer running through the forests to catch and kill our prey like our ancestors, burning off 100s of calories by the hour. Most of us sit in offices all day in fact. Do we really need all of that protein anymore? What is it doing in our sedentary bodies as we sit in front of computers all day? Well that made him think a little. But we only talked about it because he brought it up and started asking me questions. It's not in my habit to lecture family members. ;)

Then we got onto the subject of eggs. A tricky subject because I was still--up until very recently--eating them. I would buy cage-free organic eggs and use them in my baked goods. I was a vegetarian after all and I thought a little egg protein in my diet once and awhile wouldn't hurt. Well, in the past few months I have left my cage-free organic eggs behind, and Jack validated my decision.

See, Jack used to work on an egg farm. I won't say which one but he spent years in the egg business. His role was primarily in the IT department and quality control; but let me tell you, he has lots of juicy stories. For starters, cage-free usually means squat. Depending on the egg farm they can decide exactly what they want to do with "cage-free birds." Some farms will simply open up the cages of the birds several times a day and call those eggs "cage-free" in defense that the animals were given the opportunity to leave the cages, whether they did or not was up to them. See, I have a problem with that. Not only is it deceiving to the public but I can't imagine that a scared, crowded, possibly sick, overly-stimulated bird will usually venture out of it's cage in such an environment--probably more often times it will stay in the cage. Now, other farms will actually have a designated "cage-free" bird area, but as I have come to learn these areas are filthier, more crowded and more stressful than the actual cages themselves. In the cage-free areas there is no place for the feces to drop down into as there is with the cages, instead the birds play in their poop and eat it. Ugh. Not to mention the overly crowded cage-free arenas (usually indoors with concrete flooring) cause extreme stress on the animals resulting in picking each other's eyes or feathers out with what little nubs of a beak they have left (the beaks are always cut off when the baby chicks are born). Now let's approach the subject of organic. The term organic when it comes to eggs is not properly regulated. The birds may be fed organic feed but that does not guarantee water without pesticide run-off nor does it mean the animals are avoided antibiotics, hormones and steroids. In fact one method often used to promote egg-laying is force molting or starvation of the bird. Beautiful huh?

So as you can see, cage free does not mean cruelty free. You are paying several dollars more per dozen of eggs so that your egg-laying birds can eat their poop and run around a concrete cell with thousands of other hungry, scared beakless birds.

Whether you eat eggs or not is up to you, but why pay the farmer more money for something that is scarcely different? Unless you are certain your eggs are coming from humanely raised, free-range, certified organically fed birds--you are gambling with what you're getting. Even then the terms can be used very loosely on labels so make a few phone calls, write a few emails and do your research!  :)

In all honesty, there are a plethora of egg substitutes on the market for cooking and baking--once you leave eggs behind you won't miss them, trust me.


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