The Chicken or the Egg

Work has been quite slow this week, so while my co-workers were playing online basketball and Facebook stalking, I was catching up on my not-so-guilty pleasure of blog reading (my guilty pleasure is spending hours upon hours on Pinterest, but unfortunately, the big bosses at my company got smart and blocked the site).  While perusing my RSS feed, I came across a post from one of my favorite blogs, Food Renegade, about marketing ploys that egg companies use to advertise their “free-range” and “cage-free” eggs and what those terms really mean.

Check out this awesome short video made by Douglas & Laura Gayeton.

Looking at myself as a consumer a few years ago, I would go to Walmart or Harris Teeter and buy eggs for about a dollar a dozen, never thinking about the alternatives of “cage-free” or “free-range” that were priced a tiny bit higher.  Eventually my husband talked me into buying these eggs that he viewed as “better,” and there are still many consumers today who (logically) assume that they are doing their bit to help animal welfare by buying these cage-free and free-range options.  Knowing what I know now, it really frustrates me that these big corporations are allowed to fool us into thinking that these eggs came from happy chickens hanging out with their other chicken friends while they all munch on plants and peck their way around a big lot of beautiful farmland.

Granted, these options are better than the other factory farming method of having multiple chickens living in a cage the size of a folded newspaper, with their beaks cut off, and being denied food and water for days so that their production will increase (hello, $1 a dozen eggs).  But should these “free-range” and “cage-free” egg companies be able to fill their cartons & advertisements with misleading pictures of healthy looking chickens grazing on farmland while in reality they live packed together in a warehouse so tightly that they can’t grow properly (don’t even get me started on the hormones that they are fed) and maybe have access to a closet sized outdoor area a couple times a week?

So, when you ask me the question of “the chicken or the egg?,” my answer will always be the chicken.

Does this mean that I don’t eat eggs?  No, it absolutely does not, I love eggs!  I’m fortunate to live in a city where CSA’s and food from sustainable and ethical farmers is pretty widely available, and I even posted last week about getting our eggs from Bell’s Best Berries where you can go visit their chickens to see the happy and comfortable environment they live in.  Of course, if you don’t want to make the trip, you can see sweet little Rhubarb and her friends below:

I’m sure an attempt to call up Eggland’s Best Egg Company and try to schedule an appointment to visit one of their farmers chicken houses would be a major fail.We purchase our eggs for $3 a dozen from Bell’s, they are $4.50 a dozen from some farmers at our market.  I’ll gladly pay the extra few cents to know the chickens are being treated well and fed a natural diet of plants, grains, and insects they find while out and about (factory farm chickens are fed a soy-rich diet with antibiotics, hormones, and recycled slaughtered animal meat and bones mixed in, yum).

Not only are pastured eggs more fresh tasting, but they are also a darker yellow, almost orange color, since the chickens were allowed to roam around and eat green grass and plants.

Science lesson: the darker color comes from the beta-carotene in the plants, which is also the same thing that makes carrots orange.

"One of these eggs is not like the other" - the lighter colored yolk is from an organic egg bought at the grocery store. Notice how much darker the farmer's market egg yolks are. Image courtesy of 100daysofrealfood.com

My only conundrum (fun word, right?) about eating eggs is when it comes to eating out.  I love my piece of chocolate cake just as much as the next girl, so it’s been hard weighing my desire to indulge in sweet treats versus being realistic about where the eggs in that cake came from.  Fortunately for me and my sweet tooth, Charlotte is home to one of the only bakeries in North Carolina, maybe even in the Southeast, that bakes with local eggs only (sourced from Cackelberry Farms in Concord).  So, if you’re ever in the Charlotte area, be sure to visit Sunflour Baking Company, where not only will you gain a few pounds before you leave, but you’ll also be able to enjoy treats made with local ingredients including honey, jam, eggs, butter, and flour.

While it’s not possible for me right now, having my own chickens is definitely an item on my bucket list.  I know that if my parents are reading this, they are probably snickering at the thought of me cleaning poop out of a chicken coop, but what can I say, I’ve evolved.  I’ve always loved dogs, but I’ve become more of an all-animal lover over the past couple of years, and I think it would be awesome to have my own hens (not to mention the tasty eggs they would provide).  I have a very silly picture in my head of my dog, Socrates, playing with his chicken sisters in our yard, which, by the way, I am aware is probably not realistic.

I even found the cutest chicken coop ideas for my future babies, who says hen houses can’t be stylish?

Since I don’t have a backyard right now, little Colleena and her friends will have to wait.  For those of you who watch Portlandia, my inspiration for Colleena’s name came from this clip.  For the longest time I told people I wanted to name my future chicken Collin, until someone told me that only girl chickens, or hens, lay eggs (yes, that was a sad day for my intelligence).  So anyway, naturally, Collin became Colleena.

My husband and I seem to be the go-to recipients when our friends have extra eggs from their CSA’s, so hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow to bring you a recipe that uses some of the eggs that we seem to have coming out of our ears.

In the meantime, what about you, do you choose the chicken or the egg?

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