Monday, November 5, 2012

Vegans and eggs

In an essay on Ethical Egg Eating, heritage breeds, such as these Dominiques of Alice Armen's, get an optional afterthought:

4. (Optional) The Egg Is Laid by a Heritage Breed
The eggs supplied by factory farms as well as many small, local farms come from hens that have been bred not to brood — i.e., not to want to sit on, incubate and hatch their eggs with a view to mothering a brood of chicks. The behavior, after all, is an inconvenience to commercial farmers who want their hens to be as productive as possible laying eggs rather than warming them.
Out of his flock of 3,000 hens, Mr. Waters says that only 1 will hatch 5 or 6 eggs every year. Most of Ms. Alexandre’s hens, likewise, don’t go broody, but she also keeps a small flock of heritage breeds that do. (The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), which works to conserve rare breeds and genetic diversity in livestock, maintains a list of heritage chicken breeds.)
This is where we enter a grayish area of right and wrong. Is it enough that the very hen who laid the infertile eggs you’re about to eat was raised humanely? Or is it wrong to eat eggs laid by a hen — however she was raised — of any breed that was explicitly created to be exploited?
I’m inclined to argue that it’s okay to eat eggs from any breed of hen as long as they were produced under otherwise happy circumstances. But for anyone who isn’t so inclined, your best bet is to get your eggs from a farmer who raises heritage breeds.
So as far as I understand, one can eat eggs without abandoning one’s ethics. The problem is that the more than 6.5 billion table eggs (i.e., eggs intended for human consumption) that are produced in this country every month are of the unethical type. So for many ethically-minded eaters, it’s simply easier to exclude eggs from their diet altogether rather than try to track down “good” eggs. But they are in fact out there for those who want them.

This is a consideration that probably wouldn't have gotten on the radar screen even a year ago. People are thinking these issues through and moving toward change. Thanks, Jan Cho, for sharing these issues with your readers.

It's one of the points that Jim Adkins is making in his Sustainable Poultry Network clinics. It's a tough slog for the producers who are blazing the trail, but they are on the right track. I'm excited to be participating in events during this time of change.

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