For Whom the Cock Crows

Father Rooster (adopted from a friend) and one of the newly hatched, almost feathered young hens in my coop this morning. My 35 chickens happily roam over an enclosure of nearly 400 square feet.

I was watching the national news last night, and saw that the egg recall due to salmonella has been expanded to half a billion eggs. Think about it: half a billion. And the insidious thing this time is that the disease is contained inside the egg, transmitted directly to the yoke from the infected ovaries of the chicken.

Is this any wonder when you see how most chickens are confined? (Click here for a disturbing article from the New York Times.)

While I don’t agree with a recent statement by Michael Pollan that it’s alright for organic free range eggs to cost $8 a dozen. (“Pay more, eat less,” he advocates in the Wall Street Journal) it’s certainly true that we should all think very hard about the kind of food industry we are supporting. Let’s face it: keeping hens confined to 8 square inches in a cage is not only inhuman, it’s foolish, as this recent outbreak has shown yet again. We simply can’t medicate our way out of bad animal husbandry. Food animals are just that: food animals, not pets, but even so, they deserve to live in conditions that have at least some semblance of their natural habitat, if only for our own sake. Time and again, this unnatural confinement of cows, poultry, pigs, and other livestock has lead to massive outbreaks of disease, which then leads to massive application of antibiotics on the part of producers, creating new vectors for the disease, more drugs, and progressively down the retrograde.

There’s one easy way to opt out of this awful spiral, and I’ll say it again: get yourself a few hens, and revel in the way that these amazing animals compost all your table scraps and leftovers into pure, delicious, uncontaminated eggs.

It’s nature’s way, and to the extent possible, it should be yours as well.

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