Every local Triangle grocer seems to have several egg brands boasting the good life of their chickens; the better the life, the higher the price. Egg cartons with no credentials for chickens’ well-being hit low prices of around $1 per dozen at Food Lion to a rock bottom $.80 per dozen at Costco. We can assume these eggs come from sincerely miserable birds stacked high in wire tenements doing unthinkable things to the unfortunates on the first floor.
As the price of the eggs rise so, apparently, does the quality of hen life. A dozen Whole Food eggs found in Wellspring at $1.89 maintains that “chickens have plenty of room to run around.” In Kroger, there’s a dozen eggs at $1.99 that tells of hens living in “open ‘community houses’ where they have feed, water, nests, roosting poles, and plenty of area to exercise.” Community? Do they hold elections? Are they doing Jazzercize on cable TV?
The price rises further when chicken care is blended with human health. At $2.89 a dozen in the Weaver Street Market, you can have eggs from Gold Circle Farms that are high in DHA Omega-3 fatty acid. I hadn’t a clue what that was till I heard a doctor on the People’s Pharmacy say it was good for you. Still that’s getting a bit too food-tech for me.
I do understand that maybe I don’t want chicken hormones and antibiotics in my eggs. And at Weaver Street Market, you can get eggs free of such stuff and 100% organic, as well, from Organic Valley at the price of $1.99 … for 6, not 12. That’s almost $4 a dozen! You gotta imagine those chickens get Starbucks coffee and the Sunday New York Times.
Suspecting marketers might be pulling my leg, I stumbled onto something that seemed a bit genuine. I was wandering through the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and found a fellow, Steven Moize, selling eggs from his own local Shady Grove Farm. We got to chatting about “free roaming hens,” and Steven informed me that the typical “free roaming” label is permissible with minimal supposed free roaming space … thousands of chickens competing for a brief peek at the sky, and that only on a small concrete pad. Steven, himself, has an ingenious and enormous outdoor chicken pen that migrates daily, with help of a tractor, over his pasture land.
That big pasture pen with its sheltered roosts looked pretty user friendly, and I bought a dozen of his eggs at $2.50 (also available at Weaver Street).
Really, in spite of my amusement at marketers competing, even deceptively, over hen happiness, it may be progress; and it’s possible that how we treat all animal life filters down more or less to how we treat each other. I figured I was alone in my obscure thoughts till recently when I was reading Anger, the latest book by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. And there he said it: “We have to eat happy eggs from happy chickens.”