Tag Archives: eggs

Where Do Your Eggs Come From?

Warning: This is a graphic undercover video by the Humane Society of the United States showing the horrible conditions hens endure at Kreider Farms, an egg factory in Pennsylvania that supplies eggs to grocery stores. The company is also a distributor for Eggland’s Best.

If you don’t want to watch the video, at least read about the observations of the  investigator:

  • Birds were severely overcrowded in cages more cramped than the national average; each hen received only 54–58 square inches of space on which to spend her life.
  • Injured and dead hens, including mummified bird carcasses, were found inside cages with living hens laying eggs for human consumption.
  • Hens were left without water for days when a water source malfunctioned, causing many to die.
  • Hens’ legs, wings, and heads were found trapped in cage wires and automated feeding machinery.
  • A thick layer of dead flies on the barn floors caused a crunching sound when walking on it.

Not only is this a horrible way to treat animals, but the stress they endure ultimately affects their egg production. Do you want to eat those eggs?

In addition to keeping hens in deplorable conditions, Kreider Farms is one of the few egg producers in the U.S. which doesn’t support federal legislation aimed at improving conditions for America’s laying hens, and providing a stable and secure future for egg farmers.

The bill in the U.S. Congress, H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, would phase in new housing systems for hens over the next 15 to 18 years, providing them far more space and ensuring that cages contain environmental enrichments such as perches and nesting areas.


Breakfast for Dinner: Bacon Leek Frittata

Bill and I love frittatas for dinner. So when we had some nitrite-free bacon leftover in addition to some chopped leeks in the freezer, it seemed we were destined to make a frittata for dinner.

I had never frozen leeks before I went to a freezing and canning seminar at Lubbers Farm last September. That’s when Kathy Rafter, the instructor, suggested chopping certain vegetables for freezer storage. I promptly preserved some of the leeks I got from Visser Farms and took them out to thaw the day I planned on making the frittata.

What I found interesting was the consistency of the leeks when they were thawed. Like my frozen strawberries and blueberries from last summer, they became somewhat mushy once thawed. What that meant for my frittata is I didn’t have to saute them prior to using them, which is really convenient. (Normally, I would cook them until tender, about 8 minutes, when using them in a fast-cooking dish such as a frittata.)

So how did I make this delicious wintertime meal?

It’s so easy….

Chop up about 4 strips of bacon and saute it until crispy.

After mixing 5 happy eggs together and seasoning with salt and pepper, heat up the pan that the bacon was fried in (after draining the grease).

Add some olive oil. (The key is to not let those eggs stick.) When the pan is really hot (indicated by a sizzling sound when you sprinkle a couple drops of water in the grease), pour in the eggs.

On medium to low heat, loosen the edges and swirl around the uncooked egg mixture, letting it slide under the cooked part until the egg is mostly set.

Add the leeks, then the bacon.

If desired, add some grated cheese such as Pecorino.

Broil on low heat for about two minutes, keeping an eye on the frittata since oven temps can vary.

Remove from the oven, cover with a lid to let set a couple minutes. Then cut into wedges and serve.

If you like frittatas, check out the other recipes I’ve posted: Frittata! and Frittata over a Fire.

One Perspective on the Unhealthy Consequences of Industrial Agriculture

Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times wrote an interesting Op-Ed article yesterday, a sort of reflection on the recent shell egg Salmonella outbreak.

In his column, Kristof shares some information on the practice of caging hens: “Repeated studies have found that cramming hens into small cages results in more eggs with salmonella than in cage-free operations. As a trade journal, World Poultry, acknowledged in May: ‘salmonella thrives in cage housing.’”

Indeed, the World Poultry article concludes, “the majority of the studies clearly indicate that a cage housing system has an increased risk of being Salmonella-positive in comparison to non-cage housing systems.”

Kristof points out that, while the purpose of factory farms is to manufacture cheap food, “this model is economically viable only because it passes on health costs to the public — in the form of occasional salmonella, antibiotic-resistant diseases, polluted waters, food poisoning and possibly certain cancers.”

It’s so obvious that the food system is partly to blame for America’s astronomical healthcare costs.

Kristof also points out that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in 2005 suggesting that in 2000 there were about 182,000 cases of egg-caused salmonella in the United States, including 70 deaths. That means that even without an outbreak in the news, eggs with salmonella kill more than one American a week.”

Amazingly, about 95 percent of American egg-laying hens are still raised in small battery cages — crowded, inhumane conditions for these animals, which are fed antibiotics (and this obviously affects human health through consumption of factory farm food). Doesn’t anybody read The Jungle anymore?

As of January 2012, housing of laying hens in battery cages will be forbidden in the European Union, and only alternative housing such as enriched cages and non-cage systems (barn, free-range and free-range organic) will be allowed. California approved a similar ban in 2008. 

Let’s hope other states follow suit. Something’s gotta change!

Cheap Food Isn’t as Cheap as It Seems

It’s chicken-and-egg week here on Life Is Fare: Bad news about the egg industry is balanced with good news for urban chicken farmers in New York, plus I posted a recipe for spatchcock chicken!

Let’s revisit Salmonella situation: Check out last night’s interview with Michael Pollan on CNN’s Anderson Cooper. He claims we didn’t have problems with Salmonella in eggs before the 1970s like we do now. Why? Smaller flocks of chickens were raised outside and on pastures the way they’re supposed to be, not crammed into cages en masse spreading disease. Although you may pay less for that industrialized chicken egg, you–and U.S. taxpayers–ultimately pay the price when there’s a massive Salmonella outbreak like we’ve seen this month.

It’s just common sense to buy eggs from your local farmer.

You Can Keep Chickens in New York But Not in Grand Rapids?

It seems odd. In a state like Michigan–the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation–Grand Rapids city residents are prohibited to raise chickens in their yards, but New Yorkers can do it? Other cities in Michigan such as Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Kalamazoo allow it, too. It seems the decision against Grand Rapids chickens may have been influenced by an epidsode of the show “Dirty Jobs” in which the city of Miami is overrun with feral chickens.

Another reason, according to First Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski Jr., is that 95 percent of his constituents are opposed to the chicken ordinance. “They just don’t want them,” he said in a Grand Rapids Press article. “Secondly, their concern is enforcement. Most city residents who have chickens now are not conforming to the proposed ordinance language.”

New York, on the other hand–from Brooklyn backyards to schools in the South Bronx–supports the urban chicken trend. There’s not even a cap on the number of chickens you can keep, as long as you don’t have a rooster. Check out this Huffington Post video full of urban chicken stories.

An organization called Just Food has been connecting local farms to New York City neighborhoods and communities since 1995. Their mission is to unite local farms and city residents of all economic backgrounds with fresh, seasonal, sustainably grown food. Through the City Chicken Project, Just Food works with experienced chicken keepers in New York City to create model projects from which gardeners can learn how to keep happy, healthy, and productive chickens. The even have a City Chicken Guide.

Edible Manhattan, which is currently promoting the upcoming Eat Drink Local Week in New York City (September 26 through October 7), calls them “walking, bawking little composters.” That’s because “each chicken can divert 84 pounds from the waste stream every year,” according to Edible Brooklyn. “If just 10 percent of the 930,000 New Yorkers with access to backyards kept three chickens (the minimum suggested flock size) for a year, that works out to almost 12 tons of organic waste that went from landfill to lunch, with the capacity to save the city over $11 million. You’re also cutting down on the greenhouse emissions associated with refrigerated transit and storage, especially when you take into account that a fresh, unwashed egg can sit safely on your counter for days.”

So, Grand Rapids, how about a change of heart?

Cook Your Eggs Thoroughly. Even Better: Buy Happy Eggs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an egg recall yesterday for millions of eggs distributed by Wright County Egg  because of the potential for Salmonella enteritidis (SE). This recall is in addition to an August 13 recall by the same company.

About Wright County Egg

Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, is part of the DeCoster family agribusiness operations, which have already been cited with several past violations , says USA Today:

  • The founder, Austin Jackson DeCoster, pleaded guilty to federal immigration charges in 2003 and paid a record $2.1 million in penalties.
  • In 2002, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission imposed a $1.5 million penalty for mistreatment of female workers, including charges of rape, sexual harassment and other abuse.
  • In 2001, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that DeCoster, a repeat violator of state environmental laws, could finance, but not build, hog confinement operations for his son, Peter DeCoster, who is now closely involved with the Wright County egg operations.
  • Earlier this year, the elder DeCoster paid a fine to settle state animal cruelty charges against his egg operations in Maine.

(For more details, read this report from FarmSanctuary.org.)

About Salmonella

According to the USDA, Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis or arthritis.

Eggs affected by the expanded recall were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers and food service companies in California, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. These companies distribute nationwide.

The eggs are packaged under the following brand names: Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma, Lund, Kemps and Pacific Coast. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 229 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942.

Eggs under the August 13, 2010 recall are packaged under the following brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946.
There have been confirmed Salmonella enteritidis illnesses relating to the shell eggs and traceback investigations are ongoing.

As a precautionary measure, Wright County Egg also has decided to divert its existing inventory of shell eggs from the recalled plants to a breaker, where they will be pasteurized to kill any Salmonella bacteria present.

How do eggs become infected with Salmonella? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella silently infects the ovaries of healthy appearing hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed.

Factory Farm Eggs or Happy Eggs?

But there’s good news: According to Rodale, a British study done in 2008 indicated smaller, pastured flocks of egg-laying hens were less likely to be infected than larger, caged flocks.

Need I say more? I’m happy to stick with my local, pastured happy-egg-laying hens from Grassfields.

If you’re not buying from your local organic egg farmer, make sure you cook your eggs thoroughly!

(For an interesting comparison of factory farm versus happy farm, check out this blog post, “Little Drops of Poison,” from Soul Food Farm in Vacaville, California.)

August 20, 2010 UPDATE

The New York Times reported on August 20 that another recall was initiated by an Iowa egg producer, Hillandale Farms, which claims it purchased pullets (young birds) and feed from a company run by the DeCoster family. Read more about this fiasco in The Times.

Chickens Don’t Care About Design

Photo via AnimalArchitecture.org

I work for a company that is crazy about design. And for the 15 years I’ve worked there, it’s taken a long time for it to sink in–this design craze. Sure, I appreciate good design when a material item functions so well that I hardly notice it. And I love my ergonomic work chair. But design and me? We’ve never really clicked. That’s why I write a food blog. 

So when I received a complimentary issue of the March, 2010 Metropolis magazine this week, I couldn’t resist commenting on the fabulous “prefab [egg] layer farm” designed by Peleg/Burshtein Architects of Israel and featured in the article “Fair or Fowl?”. 

I admit, it looks really cool. It would make a very nice second home. Or perhaps you could modify it into a trailer that you pull behind your car. It’s certainly sleek and non-obtrusive. And the features listed in the magazine are definitely appealing–to people: 

  • “Greenery helps the structure blend into the rural landscape.”
  • “The south-facing roof is extended to shade from the sun.”
  • “Pylons detach the farm from the landscape and allow it to be built in rough terrain.”
  • “Wind turbines and PV cells generate energy that is fed back into the grid.”
  • “The prefab building is made from segments that can be assembled into nearly any size.”

Such design-oriented descriptions. Very clever, and quite beautiful if this were a home for humans. 

But it’s not. The pre-fab layer farm is simply another approach toward the industrialization of food, this time in Israel, where farmers aren’t too happy about it. 

According to Metropolis (which I can’t link to without a subscription to the magazine), “the new farms have drawn fire for threatening open spaces and imposing an industrial model on small farmers.” 

While the designers have attempted to blend the farm into the landscape and build sustainable architecture, wind turbines, and PV cells into their design, a coalition of groups in Galilee have criticized “the farms’ potential impact on the landscape, village life, and animal welfare.” 

The move toward industrialized egg farming is an attempt by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to improve efficiency and reduce pollution. The bottom line, however, is that it’s a move toward factory farming. The architects argue that “instead of each [farmer] having a small, outdated, unsafe, and polluting henhouse in his own residence, it will be housed in a cleaner, safer environment….That means they will actually make more money using these henhouses instead of the old ones.” 

Key words: Make more money. 

Thank you, but I’d rather get my eggs from the outdated henhouse. And I think that’s what the farmers in Galilee are trying to get across, too. At least the hens are happy, which means they’re producing happy eggs. When will food producers cease focusing on money? What we need is good, safe, happy food.