I’ve blogged and podcasted frequently about how industrial agriculture and its marketeers prey on folks who are trying to eat better and do the right thing with misleading claims about the quality of their food. As I’ve said in the past, this is most egregious in the case of eggs.
Supermarket shelves are lined these days with cartons proclaiming their eggs to be from chickens that are “organic,” “free range,” “cage free” and the like. They often claim the eggs are high in “omega 3″ or even that they are from chickens fed a “vegetarian diet.” Unsuspecting consumers pay a high price for these eggs, expecting they’re getting chickens raised as ours are.
But the reality is almost always far different. The factory farms can crowd thousands of chickens into a building with a “porch” and call their products “cage free” and “free range,” even if the chickens never see the light of day, never eat a bug or blade of grass, never take a dust bath, never stretch their wings, etc. The federal regulations permit the “free range” claim as long as the facility has a “porch” even if the chickens never actually go onto it.
As I’ve said many times, there is a simple way to test the validity of these claims. Just crack open one of their eggs on a plate and compare it to a farm fresh egg cracked open on a plate beside it. If the egg is runny and the yolk is pale yellow, the chicken wasn’t raised naturally. If the egg is firm and the yolk is orange, then it was. Here’s the photo I took demonstrating this with one of our own eggs compared to a supermarket egg.
I’ve done this for people several times and they’re always surprised. Then cook the eggs and compare the taste. That’s where the rubber meets the road.
CBS News recently ran a story about the organic egg scam. Read it HERE.
Here are some of the “cage free” “free range” hens.
And here they are enjoying the great outdoors.
Sadly, while eggs with these claims may be marginally better than the full-out industrial version, when you buy them you are almost always getting ripped off.
To get the real deal, start raising a few hens in the yard. If that’s not possible, find a local farm which uses natural practices and get your eggs there. Localharvest.org is a great resource to help locate a farm in your community.