As I write this, almost a half a billion eggs are being recalled in the U.S. due to salmonella contamination. At times like these, I’m glad we get most of our food from homegrown or local sources.
For some time now we have been buying locally grown eggs. And since early this year, we have partnered with a local family (the Cannons) and joined a CSA that provides us with free range chickens and eggs each month. And though the chickens and eggs are more expensive than those from a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), the improvement in taste is like the difference between night and day. Plus we also have the satisfaction of supporting a local grower – a real family with names and faces. While on the surface this may seem like a new idea, it’s really more of a return to the way things used to be.
It’s only been within my lifetime that food, at least in the U.S., has become a mass-produced commodity. In my parents’ generation that wasn’t the case. Even in the 1950’s, when I was young, we had not one but TWO local markets in our little neighborhood. At one, they sold a variety of meats, and Mr Campbell (or his father) would grind fresh ground beef for you while you waited. I’m not exactly sure where his cuts of beef came from, but I am guessing it wasn’t a huge feedlot in Iowa or Texas.
I also remember Mrs Smith who came in “from the country” to sell meat and vegetables, and we always looked forward to fresh pork from them whenever they slaughtered a hog. And no, I didn’t grow up in Mayberry! I’m talking about a city of around 100,000 people in Southern Indiana.
Of course, the arrival of supermarkets, and later super-everything stores, changed all that. I can recall shopping at the A&P supermarket when I was young, before they put little neighborhood markets like the Campbell’s out of business. The food at the A&P was cheaper, there was more variety, and the ground beef was already ground up for you – no waiting! Forget about the taste, it was more convenient to shop there, and cheaper.
So here we are now in 2010, when Wal-mart is the country’s biggest retail grocer, and the latest food recall involves eggs – half a BILLION of them and counting. I do realize that even our local eggs can be infected with the salmonella bacteria. The likelihood of that is rather small, though, and with proper cooking and handling of ALL eggs it really becomes a moot point. I do know the Cannon’s chickens have a good life, because I’ve seen the farm with my own two eyes. And the great taste of their products reflects the care that is given to their whole operation.
I’m not sure what needs to be done to fix our food supply system in America. I do know that what we have now isn’t sustainable, or desirable. We’ve got massive factory farms, and monocultures of genetically similar, and oftentimes genetically modified crops (corn, wheat, soybeans) that are fertilized and maintained with ancient fossil fuels. It’s gotten us cheap food for the time being, but at what real price?
I’d love to have a few chickens myself, but my wife wisely reckons we have enough on our plate as it is. Still, I have heard of folks who get into a poultry-sharing arrangement with their neighbors. John, Donna, Barbara and Ken – if you’re reading this – can you see yourself chicken-sitting? Can’t you just hear the cluck-cluck of your own “happy hens” as they scratch and socialize???
Oh well. I suspect I am going to be out-voted on this one!
I have to say I am happy we have our own eggs. Not just because of the recalls though. You’re right about flavor. I’d forgotten what eggs were supposed to taste like before we had our own hens. I also have the peace of mind knowing that our girls are well treated, and no human labor (other than my own :P) was exploited in the process. I’m genuinely curious to see where the American food production system goes over the next 10-20 years. In the meantime I feel fortunate that we have the room to grow some of our own food, and the rest, as much as possible comes from small local farms.
I love the idea of sharing some hens with friends and neighbors. There is a little work involved, but they’re a ton of fun too 🙂
I’m glad to have ONE ally! 😉
My in-laws raises about 20 chickens on their farm and they are all free range and eat only organic feed. The flavor of the eggs is definitely richer and better than mass produced supermarket eggs. I wish we lived closer to them so we could get a consistent supply of eggs from them.
Most people have no idea what they are “really” eating when they purchase mass produced and processed food from the grocery store. When I was growing up we ate what we grew, canned, stored and purchased from local farms and butchers. The “real price” is disease. Although we live longer now, we also have more disease then 100 years ago. Many current health issues (including many cancers) have been directly related to the food we eat in this country. I could go on for some time about this issue. Thanks for posting this.
I see the egg recall has hit Indiana now as well. Our neighbors have chickens even though we live in ‘the city limits’ even though we are a very small town, so I am fortunate enough to get fresh eggs from her. Now there is a recall of a large amount of deli meat from Walmart. I think my family and I are going to enjoy the last of our roma tomatoes, peppers, and pears this week. Going vegitarian is looking more and more better to me lol. Maybe this will wake Americans up a little and they will start supporting local grown products more.
I know I started eating steriod free and antibiotic free chicken after watching food inc.
We have two chickens. We started about a year ago with three pullets, but one died, but the two chickens provide more than enough eggs for my husband and me. Raising our own is definitely not cheaper than purchasing, even organic ones, but it is more fun. I enjoy the fact that I get to thank the animals who feed me, and I get to give them all kinds of goodies that they love–melon seeds are their favorite! Plus, we get the chicken poop which sends our compost pile into overdrive. I like your idea of starting up a hen share.
I talked to a fellow MG today who has chickens and is willing to chicken-sit for me if I do the same for him. Now if I can just convince wifey! 😉
I love the fresh farmed eggs, but they aren’t all alike either I’ve found. I rank the farms differently. My favorite eggs come from my townhouse mate’s friend who has a farm in NH. They are the BEST eggs. Sadly I can only get them when they go visit or she comes down. Second best is from the farmer’s market (Golden Egg Farm eggs), which I can only get from June-Oct. Third best is from Wilson’s farm which I can get year round.
I have access to fresh farm eggs, but still have fantasy of backyard chickens. My husband will have nothing to do with it, and so there it is! I wish locally grown food was more available to the masses, I know it is much more expensive where I live and many just can’t afford it, or just plain choose not to.
I’ve been thinking about this issue myself, ever since I saw the news coverage on the egg recall. I was embarrassed to admit to myself (and now to you all!) that I hadn’t really thought about where all our supermarket food came from. I was really surprised that ONE farm alone could be responsible for as many as half a billion eggs at any one time. Since I started vegetable gardening, I have been (half) joking with Keith that we should get some chickens, mostly because I’ve read that chicken poop is a good source of compost, and he’s been telling me that the homeowner’s association doesn’t allow chickens. If and when we move somewhere else, I really would love to have my own source of eggs, although I think I would be a bit of a chicken (ha) when it comes to dealing with livestock and all that comes with raising them. One can learn, though, right??
Thanks for the thought provoking post on our food supply. I know a number of people who are now raising chickens in their yards and am fortunate to be the recipient of some of the overflow. I love the idea of a hen share, not sure I could do it on my own but would share with others. I belong to a CSA, maybe could talk them into keeping chickens! I find I am buying less and less at my grocery store. I get vegetables from my garden, the CSA and local farm stands, we are eating less meat and what I do buy is organic and I stay away from the center processed food aisles as much as possible. The cart keeps getting less full, and I think that is a good thing. Of course, this means I have to go all over to get the other stuff and winter is still a dilema, but it’s a start.
I also need a neighbor to share chicken duties with. My husband adopts the same role in my family as your wife in yours, reminding me that we’ve already got too much in our hands to spend time worrying about coyotes, bobcats, racoons, foxes, cougars, bears, hawks and owls preying on our chickens. Someday I’ll get my chicken coop…