$8-A-Dozen Eggs? An Organic Quandary

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$8 for a dozen eggs? When I saw Jane Black’s post in The Atlantic I could not believe that anyone would pay that price. As I mulled it over I realized that I wasn’t even sure why these eggs were superior to normal eggs. And after re-reading the article I’m not sure they are. Or at least, I’m not sure they’re any healthier than the best organic cage-free eggs from the grocery store (under $3 a dozen at my store). The difference is that these oval wonders hail from a small local farm that is not caught up in the industrial food mill. This means, for one thing, no government subsidies, making it hard for the small environmentally-aware farmers to compete with the big guys by offering comparable prices.

Pastured Eggs

But more than just making it difficult to compete, I think it also makes it difficult for the average person to understand. Why are the eggs $8 a dozen? Because the farm is smaller? Because their methods for taking care of chickens are more involved? Because the farmer doesn’t qualify for big tax breaks?

Umm…can you explain it to me again? How exactly does this affect me, the consumer? And why would I want to pay $8 for a dozen eggs? Just to help the guy out? Unlikely!

This is a very complicated issue and trying to figure out where to put your $8 is not easy. But the tough decision is not restricted to the small versus big farm choice, or the sustainable versus non-sustainable, or the local versus non-local. We make these kinds of decisions all the time and it’s not clear to me how we do it.

Recently after a book club meeting I sat around talking food with four intelligent well-read moms. The conversation went through BPA, hormones in milk and the nutritional content of today’s apple. What was striking was that everyone in the group had a different take on what was safe and what was healthiest. We’d all read stuff but we must have read different stuff and come to very different conclusions.

If it’s hard to sift through the information and come up with clear answers to the questions, “What’s healthiest for my family? How safe are the foods I’m feeding to my child?” then how much more difficult is it to answer, “What’s best for society? What will improve the health, safety and well-being of the nation?”

I don’t have answers to these questions. But I do have to decide if I’ll spend $8 on a dozen eggs. I really want to but I know that I won’t. I know that the issues are important but they just aren’t affecting me enough in a way that I see and understand on a daily basis. And if they’re not affecting me, a conscientious intelligent person who reads about it all and somewhat understands it all, then it’s not clear to me that this kind of food-revolution will succeed. I wonder what it would take to make me pay that price? What would it take to make you pay $8 for a dozen eggs?

Chris from Cook the Story

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(c) 2011 Christine Pittman. All Rights Reserved.

Image Credit: LA • DE • DA on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

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