Thursday, October 15, 2009

A quest for a happy chicken

I buy my eggs from a variety of sources, depending upon when and where I am getting my provisions for the week. In an effort to streamline my purchases, every once in a while I hit up costco. What can one or two people reasonably buy at costco? More than you might think-- organic milk is sold in three half gallons that keep for quite some time in the fridge. Tortillas are sold in two 15 piece packs, and the coffee varieties are delish. And the eggs. I have a love hate relationship with organic cage free eggs-- first off, why are they wrapped in styrofoam or clear plastic (non recyclable..)? I want a happy chicken and a happy planet, are those ideas so hard to reconcile? There are exceptions (giving nature brand of cage free organics from whole foods for example) but I don't understand why it isn't the norm to sell cage free organic eggs in cardboard cartons. The costco eggs are sold in a styrofoam two-pack that is wrapped in plastic. Overkill in the packaging department.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I want the chicken to have a happy life. I would be personally horrified and appalled to find out that my money was going to support a dingy dark shed with thousands of chickens piled high, unable to stand or walk properly; living their short miserable lives in a putrid shed. Because when you think about it, a chicken in a shed is not in a cage.

It would be doubly appalling because I pay a premium for these eggs for a reason. I want to cast my vote in favor of the idyllic chicken story-- a free roaming clucker pecking willy nilly at the grass, wandering here and there and generally doing chickeny things.

So what is the truth? Where did my costco eggs come from? I don't have the answer. But why? Why don't I know where they came from, and why can't I trust the labels "organic" and "cage-free"?

Part of the problem is definately the lack of control and standardization of product labelling. Transparancy should be the goal, because when a customer pays a premium for something, they should know where their money is going.

Dont get me wrong, there are still consumers who want/need lower priced eggs. I just happen to want a better egg, and while I am able, I am willing to pay for it.

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