Thoughts On the Egg Recall

An AP reporter just called to ask for my comment on the recent egg recall. He asked if I thought more people would start backyard chicken flocks. I said yes, adding that I believed that a “distributed” form of agriculture, i.e. many more people keeping small numbers of animals rather than small numbers of professionals in charge of tens of thousands of birds, would lead to greater food safety. Backyard flocks can get infected with salmonella. But if my birds get infected only two people get sick rather than 2,000. I can also keep a better eye on my flock’s health and rodent issues than can a minimum wage employee in charge of 10,000 hens. A small farmer has the same advantages–literally fewer eggs in one basket.

I went on to get up on my high horse and suggested that our current agricultural system goes against nature. As Heraclitus puts it, “Though the logos is common, the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.” By the “logos” Heraclitus means the underlying, ordering principles of the universe. Applied to a chicken those underlying principles are that a chicken is a bird and that birds in nature have access to dirt, bugs, sunlight and vegetation. To keep them in battery cages under artificial light is a kind of arrogance, an assumption that we humans know exactly what a chicken needs, that we have a “wisdom of our own.” Admittedly, a chicken is domesticated animal, but that doesn’t give us the right to make the kinds of sudden, radical changes in animal husbandry that have been made in the past hundred years. To go against the logos is to court catastrophic failure.

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  1. This recall is another argument in favor of a decentralized food system, not more government agencies (with no teeth) to oversee compliance.

  2. We don’t eat many eggs, but we’ve been slowly moving towards the idea of keeping chickens.

    BTW, been reading the book and loving it. My wife got it for me knowing I’d like it, w/o knowing that I already follow your blog 🙂

  3. I feel guilty for oppressing my four hens by keeping them for their safety in a 10’x10′ pen all night and part of the day.Now that I have access to eggs on a daily basis, I eat more eggs. The hens are happy and seem healthy. But, I cook eggs thoroughly, so even if there were salmonella, I don’t expect to become ill. Good post! I love my four hens.

  4. It’s pretty amazing that this food system has sustained itself this far, but more amazing is that we surrendered this unique gift of using the land and nurturing crops and livestock.

    Happy you said what you did!

  5. I sure hope this recall moves fence sitters to “our” side! More people raising chickens and selling eggs is also better for the economy!

  6. I’m so glad you posted this. I live in a small municipality in South Florida and am working on an urban hens ordinance (with encouragement from the mayor, too!). The egg recall is a boon for me, if not for the hens or those who got Salmonella poisoning.

  7. Something like this was bound to happen. You can’t raise animals like the industrial food system does without repercussions.

    We started our own backyard flock last year illegaly. This year an ordinance was passed to have chickens in our city, and the ordinance for the city adjacent to ours loosened restrictions so more people can have chickens in the city. I think it’s starting to spread, and none too soon with this horrific recall.

    We were prompted to start our backyard flock last year when my 7 year old saw a video that depicted the horrific lives that battery hens live. We are now advocates in our community for having backyard chickens. We were part of our local community gardens ‘Tour de Coops’, where people get to tour backyard chicken coops to get ideas or get inspired to keep chickens themselves. We also just had a table at the farmers market where we talked with people about keeping backyard chickens as part of a “support local agriculture” program put on by our states agricultural department.

  8. @Julie and Terra

    Excellent! This is the sort of active intervention that we all need to do to make our food sytems safer, saner and kinder. Keep up the good work!

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