Masters of manipulation, the industrial food system knows what people want and how to give it to them without risking their margins. The most glaring example of this is the myth of “free range” eggs. What do you think of when you hear “free range”? Well, I imagined something similar to what goes on at my Mom’s friend’s homestead. Chickens strolling around a field, picking at grubs and taking dust baths - like chickens do! Free to range, coming into their safe cozy roost at night to softly cluck while settling in for a good sleep.
What I definitely did not imagine was this scene here: Thousands of chickens crammed into a warehouse like barn (hey, they’re cage free!) with a tiny door that is opened once a day for a few hours. How many of these chickens actually make it outside during that time is a mystery. Most of them can’t even walk, let alone leap over thousands of their buddies to make it to the door. Did I mention some don’t have beaks?
This scenario repeats itself across the entire range of animal products available in the supermarket. Words like “natural”, “hormone free”, and “cage free” all accompany little illustrations of a red barn, green grass, and sun shining down on all of it in an often winning attempt to keep your dollars with the industrial system. How long before they find ways to manipulate the few words we have left to guide us in making the right choices like “pastured”, “grassfed”, and “farmstead” ?
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you already know what’s up. If you’re like me though, lots of your friends might not. One of the few things that keeps me from going crazy at the office are the discussions with my colleagues about local food and the concept of knowing your farmer. A little education goes a long way - and one of the easiest ways to get your friends off to a good start is a little chat about “free range” eggs. If you can talk them into buying pastured eggs from the farmers market and they see that perky orange yolk, chances are they’ll never go back to their sad anemic supermarket eggs. That one step may be all it takes to start them on their way to fully supporting local small scale farmers. A little education goes long way - most likely, you’ll spark enough curiosity in your friends to encourage them to start researching themselves. I may not have converted the entire office just yet, but I do have one full fledged meat CSA member and a flock of egg converts as a result of broaching the subject!
Some interesting info about pastured eggs and hens to enhance your Eggucation:
Mother Earth News tested free range eggs to see what their nutrient levels were and then compared the results to the official USDA data for commercial eggs. Based on their findings they found that true pastured free range eggs have:
- 1⁄3 less cholesterol
- 1⁄4 less saturated fat
- 2⁄3 more vitamin A
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
- 21 times more omega-3 fatty acid