The more Enviro Girl learns about her food, the more she shops with caution. Hearing of ammonia-laden beef used in restaurants, Enviro Girl has sworn off Big Macs and Whoppers. Long ago the truth about chicken nuggets made that “convenience food” disappear from her family’s menu. But what about eggs? A great source of protein, Enviro Girl’s family will eat a dozen or more a week between breakfast sandwiches and baked goods. Mr. D likes his scrambled or hard-boiled, Enviro Girl prefers her yolk runny for dipping toast into. For years Enviro Girl bought the store brand eggs without compunction.
Then she joined a CSA and started buying farm fresh eggs produced by the free-roaming chickens her children happily chased each week when she dropped by the farm to pick up her share. These chickens looked healthy and perky, their feathers gleamed in the sunshine, they pecked greedily at the ground for bugs and seeds. Enviro Girl saw the barn where they lived–complete with little doors for them to come and go as they liked. The babies were soft and delicately formed, weighing a couple ounces in the palm of her hand. She knew the farmers used no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers on their property and these chickens were smaller than the deformed and frozen large-breasted Tyson chickens for sale in the local grocery store. (Enviro Girl still cannot see a chicken breast and not conjure up images of Pamela Anderson.) They looked…well…normal.
Buying the eggs from these chickens cost about three times what the store brand eggs cost in town, but they were bigger, had a longer shelf life and tasted better. Enviro Girl checked around and learned that these free range organic eggs aren’t necessarily more nutritious, but they do not contain any trace amounts of harmful chemicals used in factory farms that do end up in eggs. According to The Learning Channel, buying these expensive eggs were just more beneficial to the environment than to Enviro Girl’s health. The Christian Science Monitor gives a pretty bleak picture of the egg industry–the cruelty to chickens, including pumping them full of antibiotics and clipping their beaks, makes those cheap store-bought eggs seem as horrible as cheap tennis shoes manufactured by enslaved Chinese children. And “cage free” is no guarantee that the chickens lead a reasonable existance–”cage free” can merely mean thousands of chickens packed together in warehouse-sized barns where their waste pollutes land, air and water in surrounding areas. The Humane Society of the United States gives even more graphic detail about the treatment of laying hens on its website, but not the most graphic–there were plenty of web sites full of images, but Enviro Girl didn’t feel they were always the most credible resources on this topic.
There is a clear link between our protein-heavy diet and the toll it takes on the environment, and while Enviro Girl is an omnivore, she eats animals and their byproducts with a conscience. Switching to local eggs produced at local farms where Enviro Girl can attest firsthand to the treatment of the chickens makes Enviro Girl feel good. She knows the chickens aren’t mistreated and they aren’t contributing to pollution either. The eggs taste delicious and the little extra she spends … well, that’s just an ethical decision on her part. Ethical for the environment and ethical for animals.