I’m gonna officially have to re-label myself. I am a mostly vegan. Yup, I have strayed.
Don’t get me wrong, I still believe whole-heartedly in the health and ethical benefits of a vegan diet. I simply chose to eat an egg, okay more like a dozen, in the past few weeks, because it came from a happy chicken.
I don’t equate these chickens to the alleged “happy cows” you see showering in commercials for mass-produced California cheese. Those cows are not living, as advertised, in comfy surroundings with a family of their own – no, they are suffering in small stalls as they are kept pregnant constantly so they produce enormous amounts of milk. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know it isn’t a condition you want to sustain for longer than you have to.
Now, back to the happy chickens. These chickens are not the lore of television – I know first-hand they are free-ranging, bug-eating, natural-living chickens. My contact sells the eggs out of her office parking lot. We make the exchange by the fire hydrant. They come from family members’ chickens and she assured me no beaks are cut, no wings trimmed. They live like chickens are meant to live and produce lots of eggs. These eggs have a milky white (a sign of a fresh egg) and a bright orange yolk. The yolk color doesn’t reflect higher nutritive value, but it does indicate that the chicken has been exposed to a varied diet and may be healthier overall as a result. So, I am now supporting happy AND healthy chickens.
Commercial egg production means chickens live in wire cages stacked in warehouses without access to the outdoors or sunlight. By time the typical egg gets to the supermarket, it could be a month old or even older. Think next time you see eggs on sale for $1/dozen…how old are those eggs. Caged chickens’ beaks are cut (because they will peck themselves out of boredom) and are often starved to promote molting. If you buy eggs labeled “cage-free” or “free-range” at the store, don’t be fooled. These birds may be allowed to flap their wings, but they are still confined into packed dank warehouses and their beaks may be cut and wings clipped. Organic eggs come from chickens who got eat some organic feed, but doesn’t guarantee these chickens were treated well. Basically, if you buy eggs at the supermarket – you are supporting the mistreatment of animals.
At first, I felt guilty for the egg eating. I perused some vegan sits that still criticized anyone for eating an egg, regardless of its source. The chickens are descendants of abused chickens or they produce the eggs for themselves and we have no right to them. Frankly, I have never been a vegan purist (I’ll eat honey) and really believe that extremism in any form is, well, extreme. I do the best I can for health and ethics, but I can’t worry so much about the chickens’ ancestors or unlucky extended family. And, as far as I understand, the chickens leave their unfertilized eggs to rot – so, I don’t see what they are planning to do with them.
Then comes the nutritional benefits of eggs. Dietary cholesterol in eggs doesn’t affect most people’s blood cholesterol as once thought – so you can eat eggs, whole eggs, in moderation with no negative health effects. Egg yolks are rife with nutrients, including choline (a B vitamin) which is associated with better neurological function and reduced inflammation. Yolks also contain the antioxidant lutein, which helps your eyes. Eating eggs at breakfast helps you stay full and studies have shown that an egg breakfast promotes weight loss, especially when compared to a carb-rich breakfast of a bagel.
I’ll only eat eggs guaranteed from happy chickens, so for most practical purposes, I am still vegan. Or ovo-vegetarian or….oh, who cares what you call it?