You might need to sit down when I tell you how much I pay for a dozen eggs. $5. And, if I haven’t planned in advance and need to whip over to our IGA for some organic eggs, it’s over $6. But, when I’ve organized myself well, I drive down Blundell and most happily hand over my money directly into the hands of a local grower, Jose Sarabia, at his farm on Blundell near Sidaway. When you open up a carton of Jose’s eggs, it’s like Easter. Some eggs are moss green, some are brown, and some are white. But all are delicious.
“But eggs are half that price in the Sates!”, exclaims a friend. “Shall I pick up a couple dozen for you?”. I’ve never taken her up on her offer – I have an aversion to my hard earned dollars crossing the border and judging by the headlines these past couple of weeks, I’m so thankful. There is a nationwide recall of eggs underway due to salmonella contamination. Over 380 million eggs, distributed under 10 different brands, sold in 17 different states all came from one producer. USA Today reports that 1300 people have become ill. What a huge crisis.
Before we go pointing fingers at the agri-business behind this recall, let’s take a good look at what really caused this: our insatiable appetite for cheap food. We all want a deal, and apparently, the cheaper the better. But, we’ve crossed a line in our food system. Mainstream food, especially fast food, no longer nourishes us. It’s killing us. In order to get cheap eggs, we pack hens into barns by the thousands so that they don’t take up so much land, cage them so that they can’t walk around, pump them full of feed (now full of genetically modified ingredients), all so that they can keep us supplied with cheap eggs. This is what a dozen regular eggs bought at the supermarket helps to support. Under this system, few farmers have the capital to invest in this infrastructure so egg production is concentrated in the hands of a few agribusinesses.
So now what does $5 a dozen buy? Chickens that roam free, are able to scratch the earth, fed organically-grown feed, and… well… be a chicken. The yolks of these eggs are bright orange from the variety of insects and greens that they eat, not from some synthetic colourant added to their feed. Life isn’t always idyllic, however. The last time I was at Jose’s farm, crows had made off with 3 of the newly-hatched chicks. Egg supplies do run out too. During the winter, egg production drops to a trickle since Jose doesn’t confine them to a barn and manipulate lighting and temperature to trick the chickens into production. They get to rest.
Maybe I’ve convinced you that buying locally-grown eggs from a small farmer is a better idea. You can find a listing of local egg producers in Richmond in the Local Food Guide But, I can count maybe 5 places to purchase local eggs which is maybe enough to feed a few hundred families. So, if you don’t already have a relationship with a local egg producer, what can you do? Convince others to get into egg production? Maybe the idea of backyard chickens isn’t so crazy after all.