380 Million Eggs

What your typical chicken egg factory farm looks like. // teach.lanecc.edu

A chicken egg factory farm in Galt, Iowa made news yesterday by issuing a recall for some 228 million eggs which had been linked to an eight-state salmonella outbreak. The recall was been issued in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, and Missouri; affected brands were  Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh (ha!), Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps.

Then, this morning, nine more states were added to the recall, bringing the total recall to 380,000,000 eggs. 380 million eggs. That is a staggering number — not of eggs to recall, but of eggs in general. 380 million eggs! That is more eggs than there are people in this country. Imagine what they would look like in a room. It’s almost impossible.

The scary part of the story is that, relatively speaking, that’s not even that many eggs. Think of it this way: there are approximately 6,593,587 people living in Massachusetts, and the egg production period in question spans approximately 90 days. If each resident of Massachusetts consumed one egg per day over that period, the total number of eggs consumed —  593,422,830 — would dwarf the number of eggs recalled. One egg per day. That’s not that crazy. There are obviously plenty of people in the state who, for various reasons, do not eat eggs. However, there are also plenty of people who eat a lot, especially when you consider foods produced using eggs — baked goods, salad dressings, whatever. 380 million eggs over a 90 day period feeds each resident of Massachusetts with, give or take, an egg every other day. Chump change.

Can you produce that many eggs in this country without resorting to the sorts of factories that Wright County Egg is known for (see the bottom of this article for information on the owner’s numerous previous health and human rights violations)? Or are these sporadic outbreaks — and these clearly depraved conditions — simply the price that society has to pay in order to give Americans as many eggs as we are accustomed to wanting?

It’s possible — even probable — that they only way to give us a limiteless supply of eggs is to create massive, dirty, horrific factory operations. Once we begin to build out this equation though, and add in the costs which have heretofore gone unnoticed by the country — most notably the pollution and environmental damage caused by the factories and the farms needed to produce the feed for the factories — we may decide that it’s worthwhile to trade a few eggs now for a little more security for ourselves and for future generations. It’s probably worth it. There are other things to eat.

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