Earlier in the year, Costco was embroiled in a firestorm of negative publicity about the conditions their ‘cage free’ eggs are kept in, or rather, the birds themselves. Animal rights activists exposed horrible conditions on farms that are contracted to provide eggs to Costco.
We make fun of animal rights activists a bit around here, but they serve their purpose. No one likes seeing animals in pain or being humiliated. In this instance they exposed a naked underbelly of lies or what seemed to be lies. Everyone, even Brad Pitt, was telling Costco to do the right thing.
Believe it or not, Costco was already on the way to moving their eggs to all cage free and have for years. Since 2006 they have been slowly replacing the eggs they purchase with cage free. In 2006 cage free only accounted for 2% of their egg sales and this year (2015) 26% were cage free. If you consider that only 7% of the eggs in the US DON’T come from commercial battery farms then that’s a significant amount. It’s more than a quarter of their production.
Unfortunately, due to a wealth or health anti-bias that many have, consumers just aren’t demanding them. I constantly hear folks talk about ‘rich people food’ and ‘I can’t afford those fancy eggs’ when discussing not even organic, just what is labelled as ‘natural’ or ‘cage free’. These labels are ambiguous at best and a LONG way from ideal conditions for the animals involved. But it’s part of the national idea that better quality must cost more and in many eyes just isn’t worth it.
(Tangent ahead, steer right at the fork…)
Example: my husband was at work the other day talking turkey. His co-workers were bragging about getting their bird for $.25 a pound at Wal-Mart and one upping each other on the deal they got. One of them asked him how much ours cost and he said we got it on sale for $1.99 a pound. Total shock and awe. Then one person asked how we could possibly spend that much on a turkey! It’s just a turkey! My husband shrugged and said you get what you pay for. They didn’t understand. They continued to chide him for his ‘rich tastes’ and went back to their dollar store pudding cups and tv dinners. My husband already stuck out because his wife actually packed him a lunch that has real food in it, sometimes in a mason jar. People give him the hairy eyeball over what he eats already. This was just another example of reverse snobbery.
Some folks are what is referred to in political circles as a LIV or low-information voter. They don’t know and don’t want to know. This is different from what I thought when I was younger and more idealistic. I just thought they didn’t know what they didn’t know! That if EVERYONE knew the dangers of this or how good xyz is for you that they’d obviously see and do their little part to fix the problem.
Yeah right. I know better now for sure. The kids in my daughter’s class wouldn’t even eat the homemade pumpkin cupcakes piled high with buttercream I made for them because a) it wasn’t store-bought and b) they were afraid of germs. I even made it with ‘normal’ things. White flour, sugar, butter, eggs. Can’t win for losing.
We as a family would rather spend a little more on our food (sometimes a lot more, let’s be honest) than take the shortcut on our health. Yes, we still have health problems, sure. Personally I tend to catch every cold or flu bug out there while the same bugs bounce off of the rest of the family completely. But I can count on one hand the amount of prescription drugs we take in our house. Just one finger really. Our daughter has a problem with her bladder that requires medication. That’s it. We aren’t on 15 different meds for a myriad of ailments (yes, we go to a real doctor for checkups once a year). Most of that we attribute to a better diet. Unless we go crazy with the fast food. Then our bellies are hurtin’. If we eat GMO corn or something make that a double hurtin’.
If for nothing else, consider what they’re adding to make chicken and turkey even taste like chicken and turkey. Even Salon.com has it right sometimes, just take a look. (insert link http://www.salon.com/2013/03/17/modern_chicken_has_no_flavor_lets_make_it_in_a_lab/) As the flavor geeks say, the chickens are raised too fast in bad environments and therefore have no taste. The meat companies buy flavors made from corn and soy to correct the lack of flavor from birds and beasts that eat… corn and soy. Hmmn. Makes total sense! I want to eat that for sure.
So back to Costco.
Looks like these folks are actually trying and really seem to give a darn from what they’ve said. They acknowledged the problem of caged hens long before it became a major trend. Bringing this issue into the spotlight just seems to have them focusing on it even more than before.
Family farms such as this one (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/24/business/improving-the-eggs-before-they-are-hatched.html) in California that supplies eggs to Costco are a great example of how cage free eggs can be done right. If you read the article they have a great system set up and are an example for all of us who are looking to get in on that business.
More than that, it gives those with a cynical heart hope that things in the food industry are actually changing for the better. Maybe one day all farms will look like the Alexandre farm in California. And Costco will only sell cage free organic eggs because that will be the only type of egg available to sell. Dreams can become reality, folks. Let’s keep dreaming.