Monday, March 21, 2011

Phoenix and Big Red

For the past week, in omelettes and egg sandwiches and baked goods, we've been enjoying these beauties, in shades of warm brown and soft blue-ish white:

And while enjoying our food, we've also thought about the beauties (both human and galline) who provided these eggs for our pleasure:
Meet Phoenix (on the left in the photo above) and Big Red (in the middle). They're a couple of fine birds, who live just a mile away from us, in a surprisingly cushy coop, where they bed down in warm straw and are fed delicious sprouts:

It's been really exciting for us to find a source for eggs that are produced by chickens tended by two of our good friends, whose chicken-raising practices are impeccable.  Finding food producers we trust so deeply is high on our list of priorities, and this has been a really welcome start on the egg front, though Phoenix and Big Red aren't quite producing enough to carry us all the way through (we'll have to wait for their family's expansion, which is scheduled to take place in April!)

Eggs occupy this really interesting place in the spectrum of vegetarian diets. People in the early phase of vegetarianism often assume that just not eating animals is enough and that eating eggs and dairy is somehow completely separate. Others, vegans among them, recognize that industrial egg and dairy operations cause a comparable level of animal suffering even without producing a food made directly of animal flesh.  This is a leap that's not always easy to make, and that requires a further critical analysis of the myriad "costs" of our food choices.

So, even though I am a vegetarian and not a strict vegan, I try to put a lot of thought into where I get my dairy and eggs (and all my food! but especially the animal products), and to stay close to sources whose provenance I really know (and not just those labeled "free-range" or "organic"--though this is a start--since these labels often don't mean very much and as Jonathan Safran Foer says in Eating Animals, "should provide no more peace of mind than 'all-natural,' 'fresh,' or 'magical'.")

But what does provide peace of mind is petting the chickens whose eggs you eat, feeding sprouts to those chickens, shaking the hands of (or giving a hug to) the humans who care for those chickens. For us, finding friends with backyard chickens is the path to that peace of mind. For those who don't have such friends, farmers' markets, Organic Valley eggs, or other local sources are a great place to start.

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