Monday, November 28, 2011

Who Made Your Eggs Today?

Who made your eggs today?

Mine came from my hens, but you need to know I don't begrudge egg farmers their livelihood.  Backyard hens are unlikely to become a fixture on the majority of urban properties, even though it is vitally important to many of us to be allowed to do so.  I don't even believe that the backyard egg movement will ever dent the sales of commercial eggs.  If anything, it serves to highlight why eggs can be a healthful and sustainable food choice, and this might even increase the sales of commercial eggs.

While more people want to take more responsibility for producing our own food for a variety of good reasons, one of the major motivations to allow chickens is that the commercial egg production system is not transparent.

People want to know where their food is coming from, they want more of their food to be local, and, if they eat animal products, they want to know that the animals are not harmed or mistreated.

This seems to have bypassed the thought-process of the marketing team behind the award-winning "Who Made Your Eggs Today?" campaign by the Egg Farmers of Ontario.  You may have seen the billboards around town, showing happy and smiling farm families. There's a website too, with videos where the farmers talk about life on the farm, and why their way of life is important to them.

What disturbed me greatly with both the billboards and the website, is that there wasn't a single hen in sight.  How can a farmer be passionate about chickens and not be seen with them?  How can the poultry farming business be appealing, if it is hidden from view?

It is this lack of transparency that underlies the mistrust many of us have for commercial egg production, and which only serves to increase the determination with which we will continue to campaign for the right to own backyard hens.

I felt I had to respond.  This is what I wrote:
Dear Egg Farmers of Ontario,

I just want to let you know that your campaign isn't working for me.

I live in Windsor, ON, and frankly, I don't understand why a picture of a farmer all the way in Oshawa (more than 400km away) should smile down at me from a roadside billboard.

Windsor is in Essex County, which is an agricultural area, and I know it has egg producers.

In my opinion, there should be no need for us to be obtaining our eggs from outside our county. It is disturbing to me to think that our distribution systems have become so elaborate and opaque that we no longer directly source such basic necessities as eggs from our own area.

What kind of food security or transparency do we have, when we don't have access to the same food that is grown in the area in which we live?

Furthermore, you and I both know that it is the hens and not the farmers who make our eggs.

Why can you not show the hens on the billboards? Could it be that you don't want to show the public the way the majority of hens in Ontario spend their short lives?


What do you think?  Why don't you also let the Egg Farmers know your thoughts?  After all, they want you to talk to them.

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