What eggs you, my dear?

September 12, 2011 at 11:07 pm 3 comments

Aside from cheese, eggs are the reason I couldn’t be a vegan (at least not by choice). They are just so tasty and make lots of things amazing.

That said, there are a lot of things in the egg world that aren’t so lovely. And I’m not talking about salmonella. No, I’m talking about “sweat shop eggs,” as my husband calls them. You know, the ones that are perfectly white and uniform which come from chickens in tiny cages (the EU and UK call them “battery cages“). The ones produced by hens with clipped beaks and few feathers.

I know, not exactly what you’re hoping to think of as you sit down to a breakfast of eggs and toast, but I think this is an issue that eaters need to take seriously.

In an effort to not dwell on the horror stories you can get on any animal rights webpage, I’d like to tell you about where I get my eggs and why. My egg man’s name is Tim. He works in the city, but raises some beautiful hens who lay the most egg-cellent eggs you could imagine (sorry, couldn’t resist). Tim raises his chickens without hormones or antibiotics, though they are not certified organic. They dine on bugs. They scratch in the dirt. Their eggs range from small to HUGE! One hen Tim referred to once as “Big Red” lays the most gigantic eggs I’ve ever seen from a chicken. Occasionally, I get a double yolk. Once I even got one with NO yolk! (Yes, it’s real, and humorously referred to as a “fart” egg. Look it up for more info.) The last dozen I got, the yolks were so orange, my husband asked if I’d added some sort of spice to the scrambled eggs to make them so dark. Most weeks the shells are a mix of white and various shades of brown, and when the Araucanas are laying, they’re even green! Oh, and did I mention he delivers the eggs to me and my co-workers at our office? All this for only $2.50 a dozen. Best local food deal I ever found.

Some weeks I miss the egg order and have to get a dozen at the store. The tricky thing at the grocery store is the labels. I’m sure you’ve noticed what I’m talking about. Organic, natural, cage-free, free-roaming, hormone free, no antibiotics, cruelty free and the list goes on. Many of these terms are almost completely unregulated. The worst in my book – natural. Arsenic and lead are “natural” my friends and you would not want them in your breakfast burrito. Even the most regulated of the terms, like “organic” is not always straightforward. As the fine folks at the Cornucopia Institute have found, not all organic brands are created equal. Some “organic” eggs are questionable in how much of the spirit of organic they actually follow. Is an antibiotic free egg really what you want if the chicken was still debeaked and raised in a barn with 10,000 other hens? A very helpful resource I would encourage you to check out is the Organic Egg Scorecard. The unfortunate thing you’ll find is that organic eggs sold as store brands are often some of the worst offenders (the same is also very true for dairy).

Ultimately, I know it is not possible for everyone to know a Tim, but for me, eggs are not something to be taken lightly. I want to know more than a label can tell me. I want to know what “cage free” really means. I want to hear about “Big Red” and how things are going for the person who raises her. I want to build that relationship of trust, because that is what really makes food safe.


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Christy  |  September 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I do love reading your posts, Em. 🙂 Thanks for the convo about eggs and where they come from – I would love to have a “Tim” in my life!

  • 2. Karen Graham  |  October 20, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Having fun reading some of your blog posts…how do I get Tim to deliver to my office? 🙂

    • 3. Emily  |  November 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks for your note Karen! Funny you ask about Tim, sadly his chickens have been “lazy” as he says since the weather started to change, so I’ve had to switch to store bought eggs for now. Hopefully we’ll be back to his eggs soon!

      Thanks again for reading!


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