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Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Until I get my own chickens, this is the best I can do
We all know about the recent recall of over a half a million eggs coming out of an Iowa egg ranch owned by Jack DeCoster, who has a history of treating animals inhumanely and treating his fines (when he gets caught) as the cost of doing business.

Well, I say his is criminal neglect and that this time, he needs to go to prison, and his businesses need to be shut down.  Maybe that will get his attention.  It would certainly set a precedent and serve as an example to other animal factory owner/operators.

My fear is that this latest national recall will wind up with more expensive government agencies and watch dog solutions, when what this country really, really needs is a decentralized food system.  If food were distributed very locally, then sicknesses would be very local, and it would take the CDC a lot less time to track down where the problem originated.  This egg recall occurred after months of investigation, and in the meantime more people were sickened.  Not to mention, that more chickens were abused in the process.

The answer is not veganism.  The fact of the matter is that this planet is not large enough to support its population as vegans.  The fact is that animals can be turned out to forage on lands that are not arable or otherwise suitable for crop production (not to mention that if most vegans knew how many mice and other ground-dwelling animals got thrashed to death in a combine, they'd probably just stop eating altogether).

The answer is not factory farming.  The answer is local and regional producers who treat their animals humanely.  The answer is consumers who will support these producers that treat their animals humanely.  This is the only way that we can get meats, eggs and dairy to come from animals that are happier and healthier than they are now.

If Jack DeCoster can't go to jail over this, I hope that at least it wakes up America and sets everyone on the path to really knowing and caring about where their food came from and how it was raised and produced.  I really do.


Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I'm not sure I follow you, there. A system of smaller, regional farms would require just as much oversight as a system of larger, centralized farms. While it's true that a smaller farm would sicken fewer people, I'm not sure it would be easier to trace illness to its source if people bought from many smaller farms rather than just a few larger ones.

I'm also not convinced that smaller farms are any more likely to treat their animals well. It's unfortunate, but I think the only way to give hens a shot at a decent life is to require it by law, and that means expensive oversight, no matter the size or the distribution of the farms. The farmer down the street or in the next town is just as likely to mistreat his livestock as the big farmer out in Iowa. And while you will probably take the trouble to check out your local sources, most people won't. They'll go to the market and buy whatever eggs are cheapest. That's how we got in this mess in the first place.

See, you're not the only one who can rant!

annieb said...

I couldn't agree more, but have little hope for change in this area. Americans are much too busy fighting over a proposed mosque in New York City. We ignore big, big problems and focus on made up problems. But you never know--my partner an avowed meat eater watched Food, Inc. the other day and has decided that local and humanely raised meat and whatever else we can get is the way to go. Believe me, she has never before showed any interest in this subject even though I have been interested for years and have done what I could to change our kitchen over to local.

Paula said...

Tamar- you said "A system of smaller, regional farms would require just as much oversight as a system of larger, centralized farms." my response is: not necessarily. Large agribusinesses are somewhat insulated by the fall out when something goes wrong. They also tend to have huge legal departments. Smaller farms don't have the luxury- when something goes wrong and it's traced back to their concern, it could very possibly put them under because they don't have the insulation, so they would theoretically be more likely to be self-regulating and careful because their businesses depend on it.

I tend to agree with you that small farms can be just as likely to mistreat their animals as a large farm does, but I don't agree that stopping it would require more oversight or government intervention. I also agree with you that most people will buy the cheapest eggs, and that's how we got into this mess in the first place. The only way that food producers will clean up their acts is if consumers start demanding products from humanely raised animals, and as long as centralized distributor/retailers like Walmart continue to sell food on a national basis, and as long as consumer continue to buy their food from these national distributor/retailers, nothing will change. But if consumers suck it up and leave all the national eggs in the case at the store, and buy up all the locally produced and certified humane eggs in the case, retailers will get it, and then maybe the producers will get it.

I don't think there's a simple solution to any of this, but if enough people cared, it would be a step in the right direction.

Paula said...

annieb- You have to have hope! Your partner got on board, didn't she?

You just have to remember not to hold your breath.

Jennifer Montero said...

Paula - I like your passion about complex issues.

Although consumers here in the UK are becoming more savvy about the treatment of laying hens, and the labelling on egg boxes, the real market for caged hens (some would say an abusive although legal system) is the convenience food business.

The majority of caged eggs sales are to your Purinas and Nabiscos and big food processors making cookies, cakes, ready meals. I suppose because it's the cheapest form of that ingredient. I know this is a bit of a tangent from your main point, but I think it's another aspect of the concern facing thoughtful consumers. Labelling restrictions make it difficult to make informed choices.

Paula said...

Good point, Jennifer. Battery cage hens also wind up in soups and stocks. One of the chicken books I read related the story of how the author fell down the slippery slope of chicken ownership- she and her husband were following a truck hauling old layers off to the soup makers and managed to stop the truck and save one of the hens that had managed to escape her cage.

Maybe Tamar is right and the only way to change things is to legislate it. We need a William Wilberforce for animals....