If you believe in reincarnation, one thing is certain. You would probably not want to come back as a chicken, and most definitely not as a male “laying” chicken.
Those in the poultry industry, both meat and egg producers, are not generally known for treating their birds well. [The dairy industry also has many issues, but let’s stick with eggs for today.]
The deplorable conditions in many poultry operations inspired Proposition 2, the ballot measure known as “Cage-Free California” passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2008. Prop 2 required that by January 1, 2015, egg-laying hens raised in California be able to stand up, lie down, turn around, and fully extend their wings. That's correct; most of them couldn't before.
Even if you don’t live in California, you may have noticed that some of the egg cartons in your supermarket now have labels reading “Cage-Free.” “Cage-Free” simply means that the animals do not live in cages; they may still be confined to a barn year-round and never see the light of day, admittedly an improvement to the battery cage system legal in most states in the US. Fewer are marked “Certified Humane®,” a rigorous certification received from Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), the leading non-profit certification organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production from birth through slaughter. The group states, “When you see the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label on a product you can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment.”
Pete and Gerry’s is a group of 30 small family farmers in Vermont and New Hampshire, supplying Certified Humane® products to many grocery stores in Connecticut, where I live. According to their corporate website, Pete & Gerry’s home farm was the first Certified Humane® egg farm in the country. Even at Pete & Gerry’s, however, for most of the year the chickens stay indoors.
HFAC has also defined standards for achieving their “Pasture Raised” and “Free Range Certified Humane®” labels. At this time, the Happy Egg Company in San Francisco is the only 100% “Free Range” egg company in the HFAC program.
Improved living conditions are a good step forward, but there is another side to the poultry industry with which many consumers are not aware. In the February, 27, 2014 issue of The Guardian, Andy Cawthray asked the question: “How ethical are your eggs?” In the article he pointed out that “Few consumers realise that millions of day-old male chicks are killed as part of the process of egg production — even in ethical systems.”
It was a surprise to many when corporate giant Unilever announced in September that it was taking measures to remedy this practice. On their corporate site Unilever states: “We are aware of the concerns raised about global egg industry standards by which breeders of egg-laying hens eliminate male chicks…We are engaging with the egg production industry, the animal welfare community and R&D companies to develop alternative options for the current practices. We are committed to providing (financial) support to research and the market introduction of in-ovo gender identification (sexing) of eggs, a new technology that has the potential to eliminate the hatching and culling of male chicks in the poultry-breeding industry.”
In the meantime, what is an ethical eater to do?
Easy first steps include buying eggs at the farmers’ market from a farmer you know and trust or carefully reading the labels on grocery store egg cartons and buying the best choice available.
Or, you can go even further and consider what the vegans have to say. According to information from the Vegetarian Resource Group, “Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products. People choose to be vegan for health, environmental, and/or ethical reasons. For example, some vegans feel that one promotes the meat industry by consuming eggs and dairy products…Some people avoid these items because of conditions associated with their production.”
How about making your next Meatless Monday a dairy and egg-free day? Or trying a vegan meal? Or, maybe starting even smaller with something sure to please…like a cake?
A vegan friend sent me this recipe. She got it from another friend who also gave her a mini version of this cake. [That’s my kind of friend!] Beyond that I do not know the recipe’s origins. What I do know is that it is very easy to make, and delicious (as well as dairy and egg free)!
|One generous slice. (Not for long.)|
Vegan Lemon Loaf Cake
Makes one loaf, 10 generous slices.
Ingredients for Cake
- 3 cups oat flour (or 3 cups oats pulsed to a flour-like consistency with a food processor or blade grinder)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 T lemon juice (2 medium lemons seem to provide enough juice and zest for recipe)
- 2 T lemon zest
Ingredients for Glaze
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 T lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Add oat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a mixing bowl.
- Whisk well.
- Add almond milk, oil, vanilla, 4 T lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Whisk until smooth.
- Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
- Bake 55-60 minutes.
- Let cool.
- Add 1 T lemon juice to powdered sugar
- Whisk until a glaze forms.
- Spread the glaze on the cooled cake.
- Slice and serve.
You will love it!
Happy Meatless Monday! Have a great week.
On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”