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Egg on my face

(article, Carrie Floyd)

As savvy consumers in a media age, we need to constantly question what it is we’re buying — and buying into — at the grocery store. In her article this week on eggs, Kelly Myers skillfully pulls back the curtain of advertising to show what the words — not slapped, but very strategically chosen and placed — on an egg carton really mean. 

[%image promo-image float=left size=medium caption="Cracking open the mysteries of egg buying."]

I confess, I’ve been duped by advertising. And I’ve paid more at the grocery store than I should have, thinking I was getting more. 

I'd heard about chickens forced to eat their fellow fowl, in the form of ground-up chicken parts. So eggs laid by "vegetarian" hens — birds fed a vegetarian diet of grain — sounded like a good idea. But I didn’t stop to think about the fact that chickens are omnivores, and grubs are a natural part of their diet. 

Until I read Kelly’s piece, I hadn’t considered the implications of a vegetarian diet in poultry raising: that vegetarian birds, by definition, don't get to go outside to scratch, peck, and stretch their legs. 

Those who have read The Omnivore's Dilemma know that we can't take "free range” at face value. The phrase suggests chickens on a farm, verdant and pastoral, with plenty of room to move around. In fact, as Kelly states in her piece, “free range” might mean nothing more than an access door, whether or not the chickens use it. 

I wonder if that same door has a sign on it saying “Push” or “Pull”? It’s the bootstrap theory for chickens: The door's provided, but it’s up to you, chicken, to walk through it if you want to be free. 

Talk about preying on people’s imaginations. False advertising at its finest.

Though I flinch at the cost of organic eggs, I like knowing that when I do buy them, I get what I pay for: 

bq(blue). All organic eggs are certified by the USDA. Organic eggs come from hens whose feed is free of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and commercial fertilizers. Organic chicken feed contains no animal byproducts. The hens have never been given antibiotics. They are cage-free and have access to the outdoors.

Eggs bought at the farmers' market from pastured chickens are always welcome in my house. In fact, dinner on market days is often an omelet or frittata, making the most of their fresh taste. But on those days when it's more convenient to pick up a dozen at the store, at least I know where I stand with "organic."

*Also on Culinate: a review of Keep Chickens and an excerpt from The Good Egg.

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