>My Egg Dilemma

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My first Veguary post regards the poultry industry, more specifically eggs.  Eggs are an off and on dilemma for me, and i went years without eating them, but started again a few years ago.
I have yet to tell my vegetarianism story, so the short version is that i’ve been a vegetarian of varying degrees since i was in 6th grade, so i think about 1992.  That’s almost 20 years already.  Strangely enough, that’s also the year i decided to stop my religious education and declared myself an atheist (which is, of course, a topic for another time), but twenty years later i stand by both decisions, and neither are a “choice” anymore, but rather just who i am, my lifestyle.  Whereas eating the flesh of an animal goes against my beliefs and choices, in a perfect world, dairy (in minimal amounts) and eggs seem “ok” in my moral barometer.  (And i know that this differs from person to person, and that is why there are SO many types of vegetarianism).  The issue is, in my perfect world, the milk and eggs would be collected in the pasture by a woman wearing a bonnet, and carried back to the farmstand in a wicker basket with a gingham napkin lining it, where i’d purchase it and wave to the friendly cows and chickens who made them for me.  And sadly, the truth couldn’t possibly be more opposite.  And that’s where my moral dilemma lies.
This is not a cruelty-free blog and i do not subscribe to the PETA newsletter.  I’m not here to preach, and i respect everyone’s right to make educated decisions… but “educated” is the part i’m not sure everyone is.  I believe if more people knew where their grocery store eggs came from, they would be outraged.
What’s the problem with eggs?
It’s not my intention to shock and disgust people with graphic descriptions and images of egg “factories”.  They’re out there, but you’re not going to find it here.  Below are some sources where you can read about the inhumane treatment of laying hens.  But did you know that each hen is allotted a space smaller than a standard sheet of paper?  That doesnt even allow them to turn around, let alone spread their wings.  Did you know that female baby chicks (that will become laying hens) have their beaks cut/burned off so they cant fight in the enclosed spaces?  And do you know what happens to all the male chicks (about 50% of the ones born)?  What do you think happens to sick/injured, or even deceased laying hens?  I imagine that some people have never thought about this, and i invite you to not only ask yourself, but to research the answer.
And then there is the “cage-free”, “free range”, “organic”, “vegetarian” labeled eggs.  If you look at my photo (discreetly snapped with my camera phone in my local, small town grocery store), you’ll see that even my tiny grocery store offers a variety of these.  And i know that i’ve been guilty of buying these and believing the labels.  When i hear “cage free” or “free range”, i picture a flock of hens inside  a fence, next to a cheerful red barn, with pastures behind.  Maybe i’m silly, maybe i just play too much Farmville, but these labels bring images to mind.  The truth is, that there is very little regulating what these labels are allowed to say or imply.  A factory with room for 1,000 hens with 2,000 crammed inside can still count as cage-free.  But the hens dont have more space or more favorable conditions.  These lables are purposefully misleading, and i ask you to research them, and ask yourself if it’s OK that the industry is trying to “trick” you.
An obvious solution = buy local.  Of course.  But we dont all always have the option as readily available to us.  Working moms sometimes grab groceries on the way home.  Not everyone lives near working farms, farmstands, etc.  Do i think i could find “morally ok” eggs near me?  Probably.  But have i made the effort yet, no.  Because i’m busy being a mom, a wife, and working.  And so every time i buy a dozen eggs at the grocery store, i’m racked with guilt, and my dilemma comes to light: when will i stop buying factory produced eggs?
So my first pledge for Veguary is to research and find a local place to buy cruelty-free eggs.  And i ask you to educate yourself on the egg industry, so you can make an informed decision next time you purchase eggs. 
Sources:
http://www.cok.net/camp/egg_labeling/
http://www.eggindustry.com/
http://www.eatinganimals.com/site/book/

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on eggs…

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Posted on February 4, 2011, in cruelty-free, vegetarian, veguary. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. >Well, Amanda… you took care of my firest pledge FOR me… so I guess instead I pledge to GO there and check it out, and buy some eggs! Thank you! 🙂

  2. >I share your dilemma. I was vegetarian for many years and my decision to abandon it has not been without guilt. I buy local whenever I can, including eggs, but have to consider cost, convenience and availability. Farmer's markets used to be the economical alternative to the supermarket. Cutting out the "middle man" was supposed to make for lower prices and fresher produce, while giving the grower a better profit. But profit is all that matters any more. Farmer's markets are the fashion now and they are taking full advantage of it — and their customers, at least they are around here. Inflated prices, sometimes double what I'd pay at the supermarket, make "buying local" prohibitive. And there are no safeguards. I don't know that just because something was grown locally, it is organic, free of pesticides, etc. Our supermarkets are required to state the origin of produce, fish, etc. and routinely test for the presence of pesticides. Bottom line, I guess is that awareness is prudent and there is no all-inclusive answer. Back to the dilemma.

  3. >This is one of the areas where I thank my rural upbringing. I am not a vegetarian but I am lucky enough to get my beef, pork, poultry, eggs and milk from my own family's farm, as well as in season produce. If I was a little less lazy I could can things for the winter months if I wanted. If you get a chance to try fresh milk, or eggs do it! I hope you are able to find what your looking for , and thanks for reminding me not to take my dad for granted 🙂

  4. >I consider myself very lucky to live in an area where lots of people grow eggs. I've got a small-farmer friend (a small enough farm operation that she also has an IT day job) I often get eggs from, as well as much of the local meat I eat. When she's short on supply (her eggs tend to be seasonal layers), I have friends who happen to keep chickens at home, and I get eggs from them.The difference in food quality and taste between a supermarket egg and a fresh local egg is truly remarkable. Commercial eggs aren't bad, but "real" eggs (in my mind) are so much tastier and so much better for you that I don't have to think twice about the (often slight) extra expense.

  5. >I have a student that keeps chickens for eggs… she brings them in every once in a while and they're quite yummy! It's much easier in the summer where I live to get to the farms that are near here, but many are closed to outside business during the winter months…

  6. >i am pretty sure that you read my mind, dana! i feel the same way about eating eggs and dairy lately – RI has tons of small farms, but it's just not convenient for me to buy my eggs and (most) dairy at anything other than whole foods. i need to get off my lazy ass and seek out more humane options!

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