As if navigating current global crisis weren’t enough, the local grocery aisles now force local consumers into an ongoing ethical turmoil every time they reach for the long undermined staple, the simple chicken egg.
This is largely due to the increase of ‘Egg’ awareness that has resulted from the revolution in the way we see our food.
Now, with choices running all the way from blurry middle ground ‘Comfort Coop’ to the exalted ‘Free Range’, many consumers find themselves staring at the egg section at the grocery store, suddenly unsure of themselves and how they place themselves in this world.
To makes matter worse, these new options in the treatment of our proud an noble laying hens are priced frustratingly relative to their conditions, causing us to question the value we lay on money versus that we lay on chickens and their perceived rights as our egg creators.
It is as if now, with every seventy cent price increase or decrease, we must now justify what that money means to us, and who this chicken is (whom we will most likely never meet), and what they deserve relative to our needs.
Do you go with the cheaper option, the one offering the hen to live in an enriched environment, but unsure about the obvious blurriness of this ‘enrichment’ rhetoric?
Or do you go with the step up, more expensive ‘Free Run’ option, which advertises an ‘open concept barn’, but without the ability to see the outdoors?
Or, on either the extremes, do you choose the ‘Free Range’ option, (which is already pushing six dollars here) that advertises outdoor space for our feathery sisters, access to natural insects, and comes with a certifiable stamp on every egg? This, compared with the old, reliable ‘Two fifty for eighteen’ mainstay that comes in the dodgy Styrofoam container, suddenly, but determinedly, out of place in the worldly and morally guided 2015.
These are often the questions we must ask our selves as we question our power over our unassuming and unquestioning friend, the chicken.
Ethicist and Masters Student Eileen Blair writes:
“It used to be that when you went to the grocery store, you really only had two options: white or brown. But nowadays, as North Americans question the rights of our animals, we are suddenly presented with a very complicated and extremely disconcerting amount of moral dilemmas.
For example, do I take the middle ground when I buy my eggs and go with the open concept barn option, knowing that my cash flow is not a guaranteed thing at this point in my life? Or do I do the honorable thing and go with the outdoor, free range option, knowing that as a young person, if I get used to spending more on this now, I will soon adapt my lifestyle around it? I am young women, with no children, how do I justify denying my chickens of this right?
But on the other hand, in my day to day working life, I rarely see the light of day either, why should this chicken, who doesn’t even know I exist, get treated better then me? After all, I do live with a boyfriend that’ll go through half a dozen of these goddamn things every time we make scrambled eggs together. But then, what if the free range option goes on sale next week? Then I’d feel like an asshole buying only the hesitant, ‘enriched environment’ one, today.”
In her report on this subject, Eileen goes on to write:
“Ever person has their own knowledge of what they can and cannot afford to do to others in their life. And this is relative to our changes in circumstance. But it does highlight how our society is viewing itself, and how something that was not previously questioned, except maybe by the Hutterites, is now forcing us to evaluate our beliefs and values just to make a basic frittata.”
Using her research, we are faced with the all mighty question:
Will it be useful for modern society for somebody with decidedly more survey, data analysis, and report writing skills then the lowly WestStar writer, who sporadically writes useless articles in their spare time, to conduct a research project on current egg choices and how they reflect the challenges facing our different demographics?
After all, some of our children are done learning the basics of baking, and are sure that current egg use will be well spent. While others— not so sure.
In conclusion, in this reporters opinion, we could be best off to randomly alternate between all the options on the store shelf every time we buy a carton, freeing us to the desperate hope that whatever higher power we might believe in will see our efforts and show mercy on our sorry asses at the end of this all.
Edmonton WestStar Oct 2nd, 2015