An open letter to Trader Joes

Dear Trader Joes,

First off we’re not an animal rights activists, nor are we even vegetarians. We’re just people who like honesty in packaging. So let’s take a look at the carton for your Grade AA Cage Free eggs and assess the truthfulness of the illustration on its cover. Now conventional wisdom says that you are to be congratulated for selling only cage free eggs in contrast to many other food retailers who continue to sell eggs produced by hens living in cramped “battery cages“. Battery caged chickens do not have the ability to stretch their legs, run around, or roost–activities that come naturally to all poultry. But what exactly does “cage free” mean? Unfortunately the USDA does not regulate the term cage free so its definition in terms of the actual living conditions of the hens who laid the eggs is uncertain. Perhaps you could redesign your packaging to give us an actual representation of where these eggs came from to clarify a few issues for us.

To save your marketing folks some time we’ve done it for you:

First off we removed the chickens grazing in the open pasture since it’s highly unlikely that these eggs came from chickens freely wandering outdoors and feeding on vegetation and insects. This might be called “pasture raised”, though this is also a term not defined or regulated by the USDA (largely because the huge companies that control poultry farming in this country and whose political influence puts the USDA in their back pocket don’t want to acknowledge that pasture raised eggs are superior to factory farmed eggs). It’s a shame that your eggs aren’t pasture raised especially since, according to a study conducted by Mother Earth News, pasture raised eggs contain 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E and 7 times more beta carotene. It’s too bad that the “all natural feed” that your package advertises does not provide the nutrients of a real pasture. And FYI–we also removed the rooster since that would signify that these eggs are fertilized, making us think that your package design folks were snoozing during their high school biology classes.

We replaced the picturesque barn with a windowless industrial shed to show the most prevalent housing for poultry and, more than likely, where these cage free eggs came from. The family poultry farm alluded to in your cover art has long since been replaced by huge industrial operations housing thousands of chickens in enormous sheds. Our relatives, living on a nearly century old family farm in Missouri, can no longer make a living from raising livestock and must supplement their incomes with construction work.

While we’re happy these eggs do not come from hens dosed with antibiotics, when you pack that many chickens so close to each other you have to practice extreme bio-security. This is why we’ve added the image of the man in the clean suit which has replaced overalls as the modern poultry worker’s garment of choice. Ironically this worker (probably an underpaid immigrant) must be extremely careful since these hens don’t get antibiotics.

Here’s a picture of one of our four backyard hens. When she starts laying in a few months we will no longer be customers for your eggs. To use an old Italian expression, we like to “know our chickens”. We suspect many of your customers share our concerns and will soon be joining our homegrown poultry revolution.

Perhaps we’re wrong in our speculation about the conditions that produced these eggs. If so please send us a photo of the farm and we’ll post a correction.


Homegrown Revolution

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  1. Hey HGR’s,
    Could you post an article about backyard chicken raising? I’ve given it a lot of thought and probably one or two hens would serve my eggish needs but I don’t have a clue where to start on all of this. I mean they can’t be tough to raise but there has to be more to it than just buying a couple hens and having at it right?

  2. A couple months ago I sent TJ an email asking why the heck they sell fresh edamame (soybeans) GROWN IN CHINA when the US grows probably millions of tons of soybeans itself. Their response was less than satisfying, focusing on how much TJ cares about the safety of food and how Chinese produce is perfectly safe, blah blah blah. Although I made it quite clear that I was concerned about the resources wasted in shipping fresh vegetables across the ocean when we grow the same veg right here, they ignored that issue completely.

    In TJ’s defense, a friend guesses that soybeans grown in the US are primarily not “edamame quality.”

  3. Ken,

    I had the same question when I discovered that some of their canned beans are from China!

    We’ve been scared off of soy products around here–perhaps we’ll rant about that soon.

  4. Great post! I LOVE the photoshop work. This would make a great t-shirt — with both of the packages on the front. (You could sell it via Cafe Press.)

    I have also quit eating soy. Phytates, endocrine distruption, genetically modified, etc. etc. It’s amazing to me that all these nutritionists and doctors are touting soy when no one has tested long-term effects of eating large amounts of soy products. Particularly industrial refined soy products. Blech!

    Keep up the good work — I’m going to link blogs once I get my new one built — just moving mine off Live Journal now…

    Ann Marie

  5. Ok, seriously now. You can’t make a post like this and NOT substantiate your claims. Where do you get your info from? If TJ’s says their eggs are cage free then they are. WTF? Your post’s totally flawed in the sense that you don’t back up your claims! So lame!

  6. Hi
    I ran across this blog in a thread
    I currently have 11 chickens in a coop on my property.
    I got this great device that opens their door in the morning,and closes it a sundown.They always go back in the coop themselves before it gets dark.we have @ 3/4 acres.
    They free range every day,eating grass,herbs.and all the bugs they can find in addition to free choice feed and scratch in the morning.
    I’m telling you,you have never tasted an egg so good!!
    The yolk is fluorecent orange.
    The white looks like jello.
    The taste….
    Don’t get me wrong.
    I ate supermarket eggs plenty because I love eggs.
    But they always had this strange smell like wet cardboard and then some.
    And the fried egg…
    not alot of taste.
    But my backyard eggs…
    Rich and full.
    No wierd smell or aftertate.
    yolks are super smooth with very little grainyness.
    I also get double yolks quite often.
    I love Trader Joes.Shop there every week.
    Sheer economics dictate that they have to lie about how they produce eggs.
    about 90% of there produce is grown in mexico.
    You know they still use leaded gas there?
    Many trips to playa del mar to see for myself.
    I would’nt trust the “organic ” labeling from there.
    The only good advice?
    Grow your own!
    That includes as much as you can!
    Or meet your farmer or rancher!
    See their property!
    Know what you are eating!

  7. KenM, what makes you think that American food production is so much safer than stuff from China? Watch food inc. I really don’t see anything wrong from getting those things from China. It’s ignorant and pretentious to label all Chinese food products as bad, especially when US fda standards and food production’s so messed up.

  8. Interesting post, but I have one objection to make – Trader Joe’s eggs are in fact fertilized as many people have reported hatching chickens from egg cartons with relatively recent sell-by dates. Just do a web search or go to youtube for actual video coverage.

  9. i have a problem with people saying that there’s no long term research on the effects of soy. Now, I know there’s problems with eating too much soy and I certainly am not a propponent of processed/GMO/etc. soy, but I can’t see anything wrong with eating a diet that has a significant amount of soy products that have been a mainstay of the diets of many of the historically healthiest cultures (for example, the traditional Japanese diet is relatively high in soy and yet they were (before the shift to a more western diet) some of the longest living and healthiest people, with very low instances of things like breast cancer.

  10. Most of the soy that the Japanese eat is fermented soy (ie, Shoyu soy sauce, miso, tempeh). Read The Whole Soy Story. Quite eye opening. As far as Trader Joe’s goes, I won’t purchase any produce – it’s all from Mexico. And I won’t purchase anything from China. I just buy the wine!

  11. Wonderful post – but you’ve depressed me tremendously. I have no room in my small Phoenix lot to raise my own chickens, sadly – and Farmer’s Markets do not function here in the summer months due to the oppressive heat.

    I wonder how much truly pasture raised hen laid eggs would cost a dozen? The “free range” eggs TJs sells are $5 a dozen, and I wrongly thought they were actually free range… but I believe they are de-beaked, penned in, mass produced as well.

    I’ve been noticing the pale yellow yolks lately, and have begun to wonder. Your post, as well as this one
    will have me eating far fewer eggs.

  12. JustJoP – If you lived in Iowa, you could get them from us for $2/dozen. You can get them almost anywhere around here for around that price. $5 is crazy!

  13. Pingback: Farm Eggs vs. Factory Eggs | The Wellness Bee

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