Sunday, August 7, 2011

Where do you buy your eggs?

A lady approached me the other day wanting to know if I had any farm eggs to sell her.  I explained that besides the fact that our co-op doesn’t produce sufficient eggs to set up a distribution system outside its membership, this would in any case not be allowed by the powers-that-be.

I don’t think many people realize that commercial egg farmers are obliged to sell their eggs through the Egg Marketing Board.  Small farmers may own up to 100 hens, whose eggs they may not sell beyond their farm gate.

I don’t know how Mayor Francis purchases the organic farm eggs that he claims his family get delivered to their South Windsor home.  

The bottom line is that many of us wish to eat organic eggs produced by true free range hens, but the only legal way to come by them is to drive out of the city and to pay a personal visit to a farmer.

This is one of the major reasons why we wanted to start a study of the pros and cons of backyard hens.   If you were at City Hall the evening our initiative was so narrowly defeated, you may have been as intrigued as I was by the determination of the poultry industry.  

The motion, after all, wasn’t about legalizing backyard chickens.  It was only about whether to study the idea.  Why would the industry feel so threatened by a tiny minority of environmentalists and animal rights lovers owning their own hens?

The only reason I can think of is that they are desperate to ensure the most unsavoury commercial practices never make it to the public limelight.  They would do anything to paint us as crazy hippies or to warn the public about the problems with potential rogue owners.

It would be folly (to me, at least) to seriously consider taking the industry to task on the way virtually all commercial egg operations are run.  This is why I am asking for nothing more than the ability to own enough hens to feed our small nuclear family.  

Maybe that’s exactly what the industry is aiming for:  by using underhanded techniques to resist the backyard discussion, they have succeeded in deflecting the public spotlight so the civic controversy now revolves more around bylaws and municipal resources than animal rights.

Be that as it may, we haven’t thrown in the towel, and are still continuing to gain steady support.  I was hoping that the lady who was looking for organic eggs would feel the same way.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t convinced, even after I explained that it was about giving residents the right to own chickens,  and that it is well established that the vast majority of homeowners wouldn’t want to take on this responsibility.  Much the same as the way not everyone owns a dog, a cat, or pigeons, even though our bylaws permit up to 2 dogs, 4 cats and 80 pigeons.  That’s quite the menagerie, thank you very much!

So I was thinking that there is some hypocrisy involved, admittedly on a subconscious level, in wanting to purchase organic farm eggs in the city, but not even being prepared to lend passive support to a grass-roots movement, which, after all, is not asking much at all from the city other than a simple go-ahead.

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Please keep the Windsor urban chicken discussion going! We love to 'read your constructive comments.