Thursday April 17, 2014

In search of good eggs

Controversy erupting from a hidden-camera video that was aired last week by CTV is yet another argument for consumers to source their food from local producers.

The video, which was filmed by Mercy for Animals Canada, shows hens crowded in battery cages — stacked, small wire cubes housing a handful of birds each — and chicks being smashed by workers and thrown into garbage cans. There are also images of chickens rotting in the cages and chicks covered in feces.

It’s not a pretty sight, but such videos are proving invaluable in bringing to light the inhumane farming practices that consumers would be in the dark about. After all, many egg cartons show an idyllic farm on the packaging, not crowded chicken farms whose sole purpose is to mass-produce eggs.

For those who have seen the incredibly important documentary Food, Inc., such practices are quite familiar with most animal products that are being produced on a massive scale.

Food, Inc. shows everything from meat chickens to beef cows being subjected to practices that are bad for the animals, and bad for people’s health.

Still, despite all the information available, buying food can be tricky. With egg cartons containing ambiguous labels such as cage-free, free-run, free-range or organic, what’s a consumer to do?

They all sound great, but are they? Which labels mean chickens are allowed outdoors? Which one guarantees no antibiotics are used? Will there be overcrowding with one and not the other?

Savvy consumers will endeavour to find out the answers, but if egg lovers truly want the best, it’s a safe bet farmers’ markets will meet that standard. It’s on small, local farms where it is likeliest hens have access to fresh air, green grass, juicy bugs and nutritious, high-protein feed. It’s also the likeliest place to find eggs that have deep orange yolks — not pale, yellow ones — that are packed with nutrients.

Small, local farms also are likely to subscribe to the axiom that happy chickens lay healthy eggs — a win-win for animals and consumers.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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