Truth in Advertising, Part I: Judy’s Family Farm eggs

I'm lucky enough to be able to shop at Berkeley Bowl, which offers a truly overwhelming array of egg choices: vegetarian, cage-free, free-range, Omega-3 enhanced, and/or fertile under the brands Petaluma Farms, Vege-Pro, Gold Circle Farms, B & B Farms, Uncle Eddie's, Clover Stornetta, Horizon, Judy’s Farm Fresh, Rock Island, and Happy Hens. All are in the $2+/dozen range. The only thing the Bowl doesn't have is cheap eggs from battery hens. Turns out, however, that there are fewer choices than I thought: Petaluma Farms owns Uncle Eddie's, Judy's, Gold Circle, and Rock Island.

Now, I have no problem with Petaluma Farms offering different kinds of eggs under different brands. I sort of assumed maybe they had bought a bunch of family farms and then distributed eggs. Well, as my ex-Marine dad likes to say, "'Assume' makes an ass of u and me both." (He's original that way.)

Judy's Eggs frontWe'll take Judy's, because that's what I bought last. You would never know it was owned by Petaluma Farms from either the packaging or the Judy's Family Farm website (penned by "Judy," who says she's "just learning HTML and have no idea what this CGI stuff is yet.") What an adorable scene! Amish-looking, Holly Hobbie children holding cute little chicks in their hand. And here's what the inside of the carton says:

Thank you for purchasing Judy's Family Farm's Certified Organic Eggs. You are supporting our local family farm and also the many organic farms that supply us with the whole grains that our hens enjoy. The hens that produce these eggs are raised free of cages and can "run, scratch and play" in the fresh air of the Sonoma Valley. Enjoy one of nature's finest food sources, Judy's Family Farm's Certified Organic Eggs.

Matches the drawing nicely, doesn't it? This is an excellent example of what Michael Pollan calls "supermarket pastoral," a fairy tale written just for the consumer — meaning, oops, you just got punk'd!

Petaluma Farms from aboveHere's a screen shot of what Petaluma Farms actually looks like from above, courtesy of Google Earth and an address I tracked down from the Petaluma agribusiness association website. (click to see enlarged version). Think there's a lot of fresh air in those hangar-size sheds? Maybe the one on the left is Judy's Family chicken warehouse?

There is an actual Judy — Judy and Steve Mahrt own Petaluma Farms. Maybe there's an "Uncle Eddie," too, the guy who the carton says gave up a telecom career to raise chickens. And yes, raising chickens organically means that you have to be really careful that they don't get sick (because you can't give them antibiotics and then sell the eggs as organic) and sure, maybe chickens don't really like that fresh air and would prefer to stay inside with their 2,000 feathered friends. And we should all be happy that they haven't been de-beaked or fed animal byproducts such as beef and pork tallow, lard, and bone.

But I don't feel very happy about that right now. I feel kind of deceived and well ... like an ass. Thanks Judy! Perhaps I'll be back to buy your eggs again — after I Google Earth some of your "small, family-owned" competitors.

37 Responsesto “Truth in Advertising, Part I: Judy’s Family Farm eggs”

  1. patrick says:

    Speak it, DQ!

  2. Cassie says:

    Are there any good eggs to buy? I normally don't even like to buy eggs because of the cruelty that goes on on the farms. However, sometimes I get a craving for them. Can anyone recommend a brand where you know for sure that the chickens are treated humanely? I want to know that no males are abused for the sake of reproduction and that the chickens themselves are so free that they could walk right off the farm if they chose to do so.

    Thank you

  3. DairyQueen says:

    I don't know where you live, but in the Bay Area there are several sources for eggs like the ones you describe -- except I don't think they let the chickens go walkabout off the farm, just around. Marin Sun Farms sells their eggs at the San Francisco Ferry Bldg farmers market and in their store in Point Reyes Station. I'm getting mine via my CSA subscription to Eatwell Farm, which features Three Wise Hens eggs from fully pastured chickens. B'n'B Organic and Kaki Farms (not yet certified organic but seeking it) also reportedly have truly free-range chickens, according to one of the other vendors at Berkeley's Saturday farmers market.

    If you don't live in the Bay Area, then try the Eatwell Guide at http://www.eatwellguide.org/ for your ZIP code. If there are farmers' markets, try there first. And don't be afraid to ask questions -- I'm getting the impression that they're used to it, and they're happy to explain why they do what they do.

  4. idlehouse says:

    I'm pretty sure that Uncle Eddie's wild hen eggs belongs to Petaluma Farms too. I just hate the way these people label their stuffs, because all I want to know is where are these chickens (outside roamning??) but one carton after another keeps on printing all the BS to confuse me. Finally I checked their plant numbers, and saw that Judy's, Rock Island, Petaluma Farms, and Uncle Eddie's all have the same plant number (can't remember what it was, but you check the side of your egg carton and you'll see). How disappointing.

  5. idlehouse says:

    oh duh! I somehow missed the part about Uncle Eddie's being owned by PF, and now I sound like an idiot restating the facts. Oh well. I was really frustrated because I could not find any info on Uncle Eddie's eggs inspite of all the lofty claims about wild hens, so my search led me to this article.

  6. ommmmaggie says:

    Thanks for this blog! Do you know anything about the Clover Stornetta eggs? I've seen their green-boxed and yellow-boxed labels, and I'm confused about just how ethical they are. The green-boxed variety are cage-free, don't force-molt, don't use antibiotics or hormones - but they don't say anything about de-beaking or how cage-free the animals actually are. The yellow-boxed variety are organic cage-free and antibiotic/hormone-free, but they don't mention anything about forced-molting.
    I've sent them an email with these and other questions, but wondered if you know anything else. Thanks again!

  7. DairyQueen says:

    Hi OM: I think Clover-Stornetta is in the OK camp, but we'll check it out and report back. Thanks for asking — and for the kind words!

  8. MCRUTH says:

    CHECKED OUT CLOVER-STORNETTA BELIEVE THEY ARE THE REAL DEAL. AT LEAST IN ADDITION TO ORGANIC CERTIFICATION THEY ARE FREE FARMED CERTIFIED BY THE AMERICAN HUMANE ASSOCIATION.
    GOOD LUCK FINDING THE RIGHT FOOD!

  9. Michelle says:

    Dang! I bought a pack of Uncle Eddie's "wild hen" eggs today at Whole Foods for my animal-product eating family. I thought I was making a good choice...blah! Well, I agree that the CSA EatWell Farms (Three Wise Hens) has the real-deal chickens I'm looking for...now, to get some...

  10. hannah says:

    What about Glaum's Organic Free Range Eggs? Does anyone know anything about these? We've started buying them because they were the only humane-certified eggs in our local grocery store, and their website seemed legitimate, but given the clear deceptiveness of the companies we've been discussing here I'd love to hear of any other information anyone might have about Glaum's. Thanks!

  11. Trish says:

    I'm also interested in Glaum's. Does anyone know?

  12. The Humane Society of the U.S. has a handy guide to meat and dairy labels that explains what "Free farmed" and other animal welfare terms actually mean. Some are real, some pure marketing.

    Link: http://www.hsus.org/farm/resources/pubs/meat_and_dairy_labels.html

  13. DairyQueen says:

    Hi Hannah and Trish -- I've been buying Glaum's at the Temescal farmers market myself, and it's high time I looked into their story further. Stay tuned for an Ask the Ethicurean column, coming soon.

  14. OvoLactoPiscaterian says:

    DQ, thanks for publishing this info -- I was trying to contact Judy's and couldn't figure out what was going on. I will return to see who you determine in the Bay Area to have 'ethical eggs'.

  15. In the June 17th digest, we included a blog post from Sourdough Monkey Wrangler about a visit to Kaki Farms, one of the egg sellers at the Berkeley Farmers Market. The post doesn't provide details about their entire life, and the eggs are not certified organic, but the chickens look like they have a totally free range life --- they appear to have the run of the farm. Worth taking a look so you can make your own decision.

  16. C Lipson says:

    Hello fellow fresh egg lovers!
    This is a very interesting blog because I too always look for the freshest healthiest eggs. For many years my daughters kept hens and that is actually the best solution if your circumstances allow it. The eggs taste especially good when you feed your hens table scraps such as outer leaves of lettuce, bits of leftover bread, and such. But now that they're off to college and my remaining family members neither eat eggs or enjoy the chores involved with keeping hens, I'm just like the rest of you, looking for those perfect fresh eggs.
    All of the Petaluma Farms products are tasty and fresh - I'm only about 10 miles away from Petaluma, so our local stores are getting the cartons "hot out of the hen." I haven't visited these farms but I assume they are all the same - the chickens have the choice of going into large outdoor pens instead of being crammed into tiny cages with wire floors. That's all they have to provide to say they have free-range chickens. Actually, having chickens wandering loose around your family farm is not particularly viable for your business! I never let my chickens literally run loose - there are too many predators here in Sonoma County. I once made the mistake of putting a mean old Rouen drake outside in a pen without a ceiling for one night, and in the morning was horrified to find his partially-eaten body at the bottom of our orchard. (He was attacking the ducks and not letting any of the other poultry have a moment's peace - but I had no idea he would be attacked himself! And he must have weighed at least 12 pounds - nothing smaller than a fox would have been able to carry him that far. It wasn't a dog because dogs are very sloppy predators, and his best bits were consumed much too neatly.)So I guess what I'm saying is that yes, the idea of truly "free" hens is somewhat of a fairy tale: if you let them run around, something will get them! I used to have bantam hens when I was a teenager in Fresno county - they ran loose and survived well, but of course they hid their nests, so weren't much of an egg source for our family.
    Having said all that - I have visited Glaum's, and they have a lovely farm in Aptos. If you look at their web site, you will see they have sheds with covered outdoor pens for the hens. What hens like to do is lay their eggs in the morning (inside the shed in nest boxes) and then spend the day scratching around in the dirt for insects, taking dust baths, clucking, etc. They are social and do indeed have a pecking order, so sometimes you have to take a mean or agressive one out of the group. Of course at the giant commercial farms they aren't able to observe the hens closely so they resort to debeaking to solve the mean hen problem. The entire poultry industry is just one long list of necessary evils, from getting a pure, unadulterated food supply, to disposal of manure and dead birds. These farms that are attempting to balance humane treatment of hens with financially sustainable practices deserve our support - which means paying a few more dollars for free-range or organic products.

  17. Luke Warm says:

    From what I've heard, Clover-Stornetta eggs come from NuCal which is the largest egg producer in Northern California. They have over five million birds in cages as well as the birds they "set aside" as cage free.

    Cage free means just that - they are raised without cages, but not without a roof over their heads. I don't think a humane farmer would leave chickens outside exposed to the elements, predators, and whatever disease-du-jour that is being passed around by migratory birds.

  18. Spring says:

    I haven't seen Glaum's around here, but I buy another Certified Humane brand. I feel like it's a better choice than the conventional brands, but I'm also sure there is still room for improvement----limiting the size of flocks for one thing. I've seen battery cages/factory farm chickens and I know the chickens in the pictures of these sites are much better off. However, if you look at these pics you will see that they still allow what looks like a hell of a lot chickens in one barn.

    http://www.certifiedhumane.org/fact_sheets.html

    If you go here you can see exactly what the standards for Certified Humane laying hens are. Some people are satisfied with the standards and some aren't. There are practices the organization says it wants to phase out when better alternatives are found. For example, beak trimming is allowed though debeaking is not. The standards do not require that the chickens are free range. They say they do not allow small cages and show pics of what they don't allow, but in that case they don't show what they do allow.

    I am familiar with some smaller family brands that are Humane Certified, but I think there are probably more humane eggs out there if you buy local. Around here the farmer's market sells eggs that are local. From the local Tyson's plants. So until I can find another source I will go with Certified Humane---at least the chickens can stand up. Seeing the trucks of factory cages around here kills me.

  19. Former Marine says:

    Your dad is a FORMER Marine. There are no ex-Marines. :)

    Good post on eggs by the way. I like to see the little 'cluckers themselves' so I know where my eggs come from ;)

  20. BHF says:

    Some questions about the "humaneness" of eggs:

    - Do you buy chicks from hatcheries? Hatcheries are pretty much factory farms. Both large commercial and free range farmers buy from hatcheries, and they often buy hens who lay a lot of eggs (and will keep laying even if they're ill), whether white or brown. The male chicks are cruelly killed, sometimes just by throwing them in a bin to suffocate or in a wood chipper, only partially killing them. It has been shown that pathogens can come right with these chicks, including salmonella and campylobacter. Shouldn't hens raise chicks? Shouldn't there be a dad around to have natural family unit?

    - Do they kill wildlife? Free range farmers are notorious for trapping predators who will obviously be attracted to poultry. It's a trap, and the bait is the birds. If they don't trap, realize that they need either large covered runs or a lot of guardian dogs (one or two won't do it folks). Depending on the number of birds, they could need 10 or more. Or they need electric wire fencing and some sort of cover for flying predators.

    - What's their "stocking density?" The reason they debeak chickens is they keep them too close together, and they go a bit crazy and can hurt each other. Give them lots of space and complex environment, and there's less chance of that happening.

    - What do they do if a hen gets sick or is hurt? How many people look after the chickens? Medical care is unheard of for chickens. They either kill them, or let them die a slow horrible death. If there is blood, chickens peck at it, not realizing what they're doing. If they don't have enough feeders and those lower on the pecking order aren't getting enough to eat, they might eat each other. (Before you condemn them for this behavior, remember that under certain conditions people eat each other too...)

    - Did you know that eggs are seasonal? Hens aren't supposed to lay much in the late fall/winter. It's regulated by daylength. To make them lay eggs in the winter, producers provide artifical light, which reliably produces reproductive cancer in hens.
    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=15903157

    - What are the hens fed? Are they fed animal byproducts, or a diet that is just corn and soy? The ancestors of chickens, Red Jungle Fowl, at mostly plants, fruits, and seeds, and a bit of insects. Some chickens were even fed cow parts, and the chicken manure fed back to cows, providing a possible way mad cow could spread.

    - Did you know that chickens are forest creatures, not pasture animals? Chickens feel very insecure without cover from predators, particularly flying predators, and want to escape to bushes and trees. Further, during a California heatwave a few years ago, both indoor and pastured flocks died in huge numbers, because there was no climate control. Chickens have a normal body temp of between 104 and 107 F, so you can imagine how hot it can get in a building. They are wearing down jackets, so you can imagine what hot sun does to them.

    - Hens commonly get reproductive infections. They lay too many eggs. They often just suffer and die from it, with no intervention.

    - Chickens can live about as long as cats. Most producers kill them before they're 2.

    There are some really good things in certified humane standards, but you should read the whole thing. They still cram them together, and debeak them. There can still be food, pathogen, and genetics issues. It's better and it's very important to take baby steps like that, but to me, hardly humane. If you want humane eggs, rescue some chickens and build a predator-proof house and run.

  21. Respecting Animals says:

    Video clip of Petaluma Farms.

    Thanks for The Ethicurean and this particular post! A lacto-ovo vegetarian for a decade, I recently started looking at the sources of my dairy.

    On the milk front, I was horrified to learn about the lives of dairy cows on factory farms - that with hormones and intensive milking they're forced to produce as much as 10 times as much milk as they naturally would, then after giving birth and being repeatedly impregnated, they're sent to slaughter after about 4 or 5 years, vs. living 25 years naturally.

    On the egg front, Bonnie's post made me question my Trader Joe's "cage free" eggs. I, too, was disheartened to learn about Judy's / Petaluma Farms. Indeed, their treatment seems modestly better than the use of battery cages, but is it humane? Well, I found a this short video clip (45 secs) on the Exploratorium's website, and it's a clip of the hens at Petaluma Farms. So, readers, you can decide for yourselves whether these conditions meet your individual requirements for humane conditions.
    http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/eggs/farm/clip1.html

    In any case, we, egg eaters, should also keep in mind that even with certified humane producers, all male chicks are killed, as mentioned by BHF above. Interesting article on egg labels & certifications here: http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2007issue2/vj2007issue2eggs.pdf

  22. Iowa Farm Daughter in Cali says:

    I grew up on a farm in Iowa.  We had cows and pigs.  Typical farm.  A deep freezer of meat.  My favorite meat was beef liver. One day the school bus rolled up to my driveway to let me off and I see 3 headless cows hung from hooks upside down being bled in the barn lot.  Another day after I got off of the bus I I walk into the breezeway and I see our pig friend Blacky's head in a bucket.  Thanksgiving came in 1976 and Great Grandma asks me if I want her to cut me some turkey.  I shake my head with disgust and begin my very lonely journey of not eating meat. At that moment I knew I would never hurt my animal friends again.  I reached adolescence and couldn't hide my secret of feeding the dog my meat under the table.  I had to explain over and over again and I defended myself that "I don't eat it and I don't like killing animals".  "But how do you get your protein!" I was asked over and over again.  People would even verge on getting angry with me.  I was pretty sickly and ate lots of bread, sweets, and canned vegetables (believe it or not we also ate TV dinners and Spam (very 1970's) on our farm).  I had never heard the term vegetarian--I didn't know anyone else like me, but there was no one and to this day of my 39th year that could convince me to kill an animal for me to survive if there are other food sources.  Well, I have thyroid disease, and I think I have had it since I was a kid hence the getting sick a lot, compound it with not getting the right protein, etc...what was tofu, yes my Dad farmed soybeans--but they weren't known as tofu!  My Dad had thyroid disease as well--did it come from pesticides seeping into our well water??  Anyway, so I just have never felt up to par.  I finally broke down two years ago and started eating eggs again--I had hoped from ethically raised animals.  Oh, my goodness, my body felt so complete.  I felt a huge, fantastic energy surge through me.  My goodness, how I had been missing this nutrition.  I noticed it in such a big way because I was so deficient.  I told myself I would only eat the eggs if they were raised humanely.  I found a rooster in China Town 4 years ago in San Francisco who was fortunately left on a doorstep from a delivery truck at a restaurant.  The little dear curled himself up and went to sleep.  We found him at midnight and took him home.  He was so full of infection.  One of his eyes was so full of infection that it was raised about one inch from his head.  I took him to a vet and they cleaned it out and gave me antibiotics and ointment to put in his eye.  He smelled terrible from the sickness.  Have you ever seen a chicken lay on his side like a dog?  Well they do when they are ready to die.  He was lucky he was a youngster or he would have kicked the bucket.  This is what those jerks were going to feed the public in a restaurant until he got bumped off the truck.  I was careful with him and stroked his feathers everyday.  He got better and better.  He would come in the house looking for me and sat on my lap at my computer and would fall asleep.  These little beings have personalities!  He knew me and followed me around the garden with his one seeing eye.  What a good little fella.  Which brings me back to my eating eggs again.  I am very disappointed to find that the companies which advertise them as being ethically treated are stretching the truth.  I so appreciate these animals making it so I can live a strong robust life.  I owe them my life.  I owe them responsibility and I might just start raising some of my own.  They do need to have a little hen house where they can retire and feel safe at night.  I am fortunate to live in a city where I am considered in the county and I can have a crowing rooster.  I moved here six months ago and hear the neighbors roosters crowing day and night.  Sometimes it is annoying, most of the time I don't notice them, but I would rather hear them than city noises like cars, loud music, anger, and any other kind of man made annoyances.  They are natures symphony.  I see so many fellow people that feel like myself in this emerging daylight of age that I am not alone anymore.  Maybe the world isn't getting more corrupt?  Just reading all of your comments really inspired me bringing me a new happiness.  It is like we have been in a deep sleep and large masses have awoken, but not the majority yet.  Thank You for enlightening me everyone!

  23. farmboy says:

    This is a good substantive discussion.  I want to respond to the following statement from the article: And we should all be happy that they haven’t been de-beaked or fed animal byproducts such as beef and pork tallow, lard, and bone.
    There is no prohibition on de-beaking (more appropriately called beak trimming, since it is not removed entirely)  in organic standards.  It is a virtual certaintly that organic birds raised in these semi-confinment conditions (access to the outdoors is required, but there is no obligation that birds go outside) have had their beaks trimmed. The size of organically raised flocks grown under these conditions can easily reach 6,000 to 8,000 birds per house.  Most organic certifiers require 1.5 sq. feet per bird.  Also, there are no animal by-products in organic poultry feed, but the feed ration does contain a synthetic amino acid - methionine - that is the first limiting factor in poultry nutrition.  In effect, organic standards took an omnivore (poultry are tough creatures - they eat snakes and mice, when given the opportunity) and turned them into herbivores supplemented with chemical protein.  The USDA organic standard for poultry (I contributed to writing it between 1999 and 2002) is in the Dark Ages realtive to the standards for ruminants, even with the absurd "access to pasture" component.  Producers of large quantities of organic eggs would very much like to perpetuate the idylic image of poultry production that tPetuluma Farms depicts on its label.  Looking at the Google photo, it's no wonder that they went with the drawing. 

  24. Annie says:

    Glad I found this. The Judy's website and branding in general is all "Aw shucks, we're just a tiny chicken farm!" but the truth is far different. At this weekend's farmer's market, I asked whether they have any eggs from chickens that haven't had their beaks or wings clipped. No dice. I certainly won't be buying eggs from Judy's. I have started buying my eggs from a stand at the Ferry Building market; it's a small stand with limited supplies of eggs and peppers, but the animals are treated better. It's expensive but the eggs are delicious, and I can feel better knowing that animals weren't tortured so I can make an omelet.
     
     
     

  25. sam says:

    I don't quite know how, but I have been wise to this situation for several years which is why I don't buy eggs from a supermarket and am happy to pay $7 + per dozen for pasture raised eggs.  If I had to - I would go to Rainbow. They have a very handy list on the fridge door listing every egg they stock with a check list of practices each farm does and does not follow.
     
     

  26. Nigel Walker says:

    Bonnie,
    I am amazed that it has taken this long to uncover the truth about how eggs are raised. I commend the Humane Society for having the courage to take on the United Egg Producers.  I very much hope that you and all your friends will vote yes on prop 2. It is a modest start, only that. Confining animals in inhumane conditions so that we can have cheap meat and eggs is wrong and cannot continue. Cheap is a relative term, someone or something has to pay the true cost.
    So what now...
    If you can afford to support a farm like Marin Sun or ours please do so. Please do not forget that we have to buy Californian cage free eggs to help these farmers change and stop a flood of out of State imports. Keeping our food local is the best way we can watch its quality.
    Nigel Walker

  27. C says:

    There are plant sources of methionine, such as sunflower seeds. There's a great book out there that has detailed charts that show how to combine plant foods to create complete protein, "Diet for a Small Planet" by Frances Moore Lappe. At the time, they thought you had to have the protein building blocks all at the same meal, but now they know you can eat them through the day and the body will store them. It's easy to get protein. Just make sure during your day you eat lots of whole grains, and some beans, nuts, and seeds. Even potatoes have protein. There are many athletes and body builders on vegetarian and vegan diets! So protein isn't an issue. (See http://www.veganbodybuilding.com/ if you're not convinced!)

    You do have to watch iron, and B12 if you're vegan. If you take some vitamin C with your plant iron sources, you increase absorption. It's easier to absorb iron from animal sources. Some people take DHA omega 3 supplements, derived from the algae that salmon eat, which is why they have DHA in their flesh.

    There are some veg foods that can suppress thyroid function, such as soybeans, peanuts, and brassicas like broccoli. If you have a thyroid issue, you might need to get a list of those foods and use less of them in your diet, and make sure you have a source of iodine, such as seaweed or a supplement. I take a supplement called Thyroid Strength by Nutrional Therapeutix, which I find helpful.

    My chickens do not eat animals. They do eat insects. I've heard some people report that chickens will hunt small animals or lizards, or eat carrion, but I suspect that their diet is inadequate, as I have taken in chickens from many different sources, including animal control and those that were starving, and I have yet to find a chicken who would eat an animal! I spend extra money to get a really high quality organic feed, and feed lots of produce and they have bugs around, so I suspect that this is the difference. I also limit the amount of soy they get, so chose a low-soy feed, as I wonder if the estrogenic activity might be harmful to them (they already lay an egg most days!).

  28. Bonnie P. says:

    Hi Nigel — and everyone else who has just found this post — please keep in mind that it's over two years old. Since then I and the other Ethicureans have found many sources of truly free-range eggs in the Bay Area: at the SF or Berkeley farmers markets, you can buy them from Eatwell (which Nigel owns), Marin Sun, Riverdog, Kaki Farms, and Ludwig Avenue. At various retail outlets, look for Clark Summit Farm (available at Rainbow and Three Stone Hearth), Soul Food Farm (Cafe Rouge and Prather store at Ferry Plaza), and TLC Ranch (at Bi-Rite).

    These eggs range from $6/doz to $8/doz. That is steep but I for one was willing to economize elsewhere in order to pay it. (Currently I trade labor running a meat CSA for Clark Summit in exchange for eggs and meat.) However, it is difficult for restaurants and small artisan food producers like bakeries to rely entirely on these eggs for all their needs because of their price and often limited availability. We are glad to see those places at least choosing Clover Organic eggs or other larger-scale operations that do not use battery cages.

  29. farmboy says:

    C,

    I commend you for your compassionate care for discarded chickens.  No living creature should be thrown away.  My understanding is that Ms. Lappe revised her approach to diet and nutrition upon further investigation.  I do not belieev that she continues to advocate for people to obtain their protein through a completely plant based diet.  For a comprehensive assesment of the role of animal protein in the diet, a review of the work of Weston A. Price is indidpensable.  Tere is a reason why every indigenous culture on the planet consumes animal and/or insect flesh - it provides wonderful nutrition.  Also, you are absolutely correct about non-fermented soy foods - they have been grossly over-hyped and are indeed dangerous.  Finallyy, regrading your chickens and their feed:  are you looking at all the ingredients on the feed label?  If you are purchasing a formulated poultry ration, I would expect that synthetic methionine has been mixed in.  I've known certified organic producers who didn't realize this - that feed ingredient label is lengthy and torturous to read.  But mostly, bless you for showing compassion to animals. 

  30. C says:

    Thanks for your response farmboy. My commercial feed does contain methionine, as that is is standard supplement in chicken feed, as you suggested. However, when I had a smaller number of birds, I did make my own feed, and was able to create a balanced diet without the addition of methionine. A poultry vet approved my formulation and the birds did extremely well on it. I believe that the supplemental methionine is necessary due to the ingredients they use in the feed, which sometimes is just corn and soy, for example, because it's cheaper. My birds do have access to plenty of insects, as I live in a rural setting.

    I don't know about Lappe's diet. I do know she advocates for a plant-centered diet. We eat much more meat than many people did in the past.

    I don't eat meat, because I'm not willing to kill an animal, and I feel it's hypocritical of me to eat it when I'm not willing to raise and kill the animal myself. Plus, chickens are very cool animals! I love chickens. But, purely by accident, I've avoided most of the health issues that plague my relatives on a high-meat diet, including diabetes, arthritis, gallbladder stones, and so on. Further, when I applied for insurance last year, I was given their very highest health rating, which is very rare for anyone to get. There is some good research out there now that shows that a veg diet is beneficial. Check these out: The China Study and Becoming Vegan (which has a misleading title as most of the book is simply about a longterm study comparing disease rates in populations of vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters).

    I find the Weston Price website interesting, but I also think that sometimes the factual backup is lacking. I find it to be a mixed bag, in general. But I think this is a useful discussion!

  31. C says:

    FYI, for those who are interested. I contacted Lappe's organization through her website, smallplanet.org, and this is what they said about Frances' diet:

    Actually, she's described herself recently as "vegetarian with vegan leanings."

  32. farmboy says:

    I never quibble over a person's choice of diet, politics or religion.  That's the bare minimum we each deserve in shaping our destinies.  I lived as a vegan for five years and enjoyed good energy, immunity and vitality.  I do not believe that veganism would support my health throughout my adult and senescent years.  As it was, my teeth were literally falling apart after ten years of a diet absent or defficient in quality livestock products.  By quality, I mean naturally raised, and not the USDA's definition.  Ten years after resuming a high quality protein diet, my teeth are healthier than ever.  Immunity, vitality and creativity better than ever. Personal developments such as this are by definition anectdotal, but there is no doubt about the correlation/causation in my mind.  There is not a single precept or recommendation in the Weston Price guidelines that I have not seen validated empirically. No person ever became sick from eating an appropriate quantity (calories in = calories out) of naturally raised livestock products.  There is a reason why every native people of this planet relished animal protein, meaning meat, organs, and bones (broth) - it is optimal for human fitness.  The onsluaght of dietary driven disease is the result of abandonning nature's perfect foods over the past century.  Did we get so much wiser in the past 100 years, or did capitalism?  If others do not find animal protein essential, I respect that choice.   I look back upon my years as a vegan as therapy - there were benefits appropriate to my point in life. That's an extremely poor decision to make for a baby or infant, by the way.  

  33. C says:

    I try to read about both sides of each situation, and I'm well aware of all of the gray areas we have in this world! I try to respect each person's opinions, so I appreciate this discussion.

    I think traditionally humans ate whatever they could to survive. In colder climates, they ate more meat. In warmer climates, there were more vegetarians. I've met people from India who can trace their family tree back 2000 years, and they were all vegetarian during that time. Part of our food choice historically  was just plain survival, as opposed to nutrition. These days, our environment has become more polluted, and unfortunately, these toxins, such as heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, and so on, can concentrate in animal flesh. So if you eat higher on the food chain, you can ingest more of them. That variable probably wasn't there a long time ago. And then there was the variable of exercise, and I doubt most of us have as active of a life as our ancestors.

    I know lots of vegans who have great teeth, including vegan children.  I wouldn't say that living on cola and corn chips is a good veg diet. I seem to do fine on a mostly organic diet with nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and lots of produce, and I'm not all that careful, as I do enjoy coffee and dessert. I'll occasionally eat an egg or two from my pet chickens. My dogs eat a diet of Natural Balance vegetarian dog food (no soy/corn) and cooked eggs from my chickens, they're healthy, too, even though they're old for giant dogs. They didn't do well on a vegetarian kibble with soy. So it took some experimentation and research, but things are going well!

    I live with livestock, and after my personal experiences with them, I really don't want to eat them. Luckily, I'm in a position where I don't need to in order to survive. I've noticed that if you have older members in a herd or flock, that they keep the younger ones in line and there are fewer behavioral issues. I like having the males involved in the raising of the young. I think that if you're thinking of an animal as simply a commodity, there are just times when you aren't going to treat them as well, as long as it doesn't effect the bottom line. So, in a society that we hope, I guess, has evolved to where we no longer have to eat meat for survival, or so much of it, because we have a variety of foods available, then why not do something to make our domestic animals enjoy a better life, too?

  34. farmboy says:

    I'm delighted to let C have the last word on this thread - her knowledge and insight are impressive.  But I can't close without challenging her positive reference to "vegan baby"  in her recent post.  That notion is inhumane in the most literal meaning of the term.  Depriving a child of quality animal protein is reprehenisble.  Again, Mother Nature and human history are our greatest teachers.

  35. C says:

    I didn't say anything about babies. Babies need their mothers' milk. I don't think you'll find many vegans who are feeding soymilk that wasn't designed as a baby formula, for example, to infants.

    Once again, there is plenty of research covering generations of people in the books the China Study and Becoming Vegan about health in different populations. And, some of our ancestors were vegetarian.

    After reading these studies, one could make the argument that feeding children a typical Western diet with lots of animal products, which has been linked with many diseases as well as environmental destruction that will probably affect the futures of these children, is also reprehensible. 

    But, in the end, I'm always humbled by how much we don't know yet! :)

    Thanks for the lively discussion!

  36. farmboy says:

    My apologies - I did indeed misquote you - very sorry, it was unintentional.  I knew you should have the last word!

  37. Country Boy says:

    People living in the city and think they can buy free range eggs at a super market are really living in a fairytale land. I live in the country and we are exposed to the same crap in the Super markets. Even smaller ma and pa stores. And convenience stores. One may find range eggs at a vegetarian conscience health food store and that would be the only place one could come close to finding free range eggs in the city without going to the Hispanic neighborhoods and lessening for a rooster crowing in the morning. In the country it is even difficult to find persons who care about there chickens. But I have been lucky to find two that live relatively close to me. (with 10 miles) People that are in it for the money and have to compete with the likes of the big poutry farms just do not consider range free chickens. Some day maybe if enough pressure is placed on the big guys to follow more stringent standards of animal care then maybe just maybe someone could find it possible to collect eggs out across the landscape and provide a small supply to a large city. But currently local people sell all they produce and it just keeps them in eggs for themselves with maybe a small profit.

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