Friday, January 7, 2011


I recently read an article posted by Take Part that had me arguing with my computer screen.  You should probably read it first, or skip it so you don't have to be misinformed. There is soooooo much information out there regarding our food that is inaccurate and when I come across it it makes me cringe with frustration. But this was someone with good intentions, I guess, but inaccurate and misleading. The author of this article was being "cute" while "describing" the different classifications/labels of eggs, but he put too much time into being cute and not enough time into his research.

I knew I had seen a great layout recently of the different standards of labeling foods and I am very grateful to  Animal Welfare Approved for finding it for me. Please print this out, or bookmark it, it is very helpful, and a link that is good information in the quality of your food.

I will give Mr. Trunell credit in his light description of battery caged eggs, he touches on the highest of the low lights but it is a brief and lightly goes into how the air is unbearable filled of feces, illness and death, the hormones and antibiotics that are pumped into these birds even before hatched just to keep them alive in such conditions and that their beaks are clipped to prevent them from pecking each other to death. Many are too weak to even stand.

Then he groups cage free and free range chickens into the same category. He does give them different explanations, but isn't accurate in them.
Cage free just means that they aren't in a cage, which is kind of silly since these birds most of the time never see the light of day, still breath feces and death filled air and still have no room to move, still have their beaks clipped, and are still full of hormones and antibiotics. I had the opportunity to attend an AWA panel discussion where former Perdue chicken farmer Carole Morison spoke. She has since left chicken farming and is activist for family farmers, she was also seen in "Food, Inc". She spoke of her lack of rights and the horrors of the chickens, granted her chickens were broilers, but same mentality.

Free Range is where the author of lost me. Free range as with many of the wording in the food industry has many loopholes and is misleading, it just means "I can charge more money than if I say it's cage free". There aren't regulations as to chickens per area, conditions, only that they are out of cages, and have "access" to the outside, which can include a small door to a dirt or concrete patch of space outside.
*A small note here before we go into Organic, "no hormones" and "hormone free" can be tricky as until the chicken takes the first breath it is not considered living under the laws so they can be injected with whatever the farmer well pleases and it is allowed to be labeled misleading.

Organic. Huh. This can send me to many many different side situations, but just because your farmer at a farmer's market doesn't say organic it doesn't mean that those eggs should be avoided. Organic is a bought label. Yes, it has to meet certain standards, but it is an expensive label to receive. Organic chickens do have standards that they have access to clean dry bedding, but there aren't any ammonia restrictions in place. There aren't any standards to their living space and there aren't any regulations as to how long they can stay in the dark. They are however prohibited growth hormones and antibiotics. Organic is a government owned label, and well, it's better than previous options.

AWA and Pastured eggs. AWA is a private label that has great, tough standards. More and more farms are achieving the AWA label all the time, which is great, as it is a label to be trusted. If you look at the chart I attached at the beginning this is when those labels all begin to come out with "Certified Humane", "American Humane Certified", and "Global Animal Partnership". There are ammonia standards, bedding, sleeping standards, etc. Pastured eggs can be penned or cage free. The penned are moved to fresh pasture frequently and the pens are there to keep them safe from predators. True free range birds happen in this area of certification.

So. There. I hope it clarifies a little into the world of eggs. And not to always trust what you read. And remember, as Micheal Pollan likes to say, "vote with your dollar". If we all start buying higher standards the rest will follow.
Here's a link to my blog entry from the AWA panel I attended last May.
Oh yea, and Mr Trunell there are blue eggs too. What color earlobes do those chickens have? Answer: the earlobe statement in the article is inaccurate, it's all genetics. Earlobes can be an indication, but not a rule.

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