Today was another gorgeous Indian summer day with the smell of fall in the air. The streets will soon be covered with a thick layer of multi-colored leaves, helping the soil to replenish itself in the woods and the yards.
It was a perfect day for a stroll down the street to the local Farmer’s Market where I go every week, hunting for pasture-raised eggs for my husband. I myself, am an eggtotateler because I can no longer ignore the horrors of factory farmed chickens.
This time I saw a booth with 2 large posters. On the right, a picture of a flock of red chickens posing for the camera, in a vast green pasture. An identical photograph of a green pasture on the left was filled with white chickens, all happily prancing about. I knew before I read the captions that the red chickens were ‘layers’ and the white ones’ broilers’.
The farm stand sold eggs for $6 for a dozen. You can call this either a steal or a rip-off, depending on your point of view, but I could live with the idea of paying 50 cents for an egg, knowing how much time and effort it took that red chicken to lay it. As I took out my wallet, I asked the lady how many chickens she had on this local organic farm of hers. About 1700, she said.
‘What happens to the red chickens when they are done laying eggs’ I asked. ‘We eat them’ she replied predictably.
What I really wanted to hear her say was that they had a decent retirement package for those 1700 employees. Did they offer a 401K, early retirement, disability insurance? After all, laying eggs all day long must deplete your calcium levels to an unhealthy level and I was hoping that they would have some kind of provision for those chickens that started to show signs of arthritis.
I wanted to tell her that those chickens, after having provided her with her livelihood for free, don’t deserve to be cooked right away. They deserve to spend their post-egg laying years in that green pasture on the photograph, so they can gossip with each other about their sister Gertrude or Martha, share their memories, enjoy each other’s company without the pressures and headaches that a high-stress job like daily egg-laying must entail.
But I bought my eggs, paid the 6 dollars and went home.
You might think that this story is the fantasy of a middle-aged dreamer, but the next day I put on my mud boots and drove to the local rescue farm, where I volunteer. A long time ago, I made friends with Rosie, a red hen. She doesn’t have any feathers on her neck because she is a breed called ‘Transylvanian Naked Necks’, bred so that it would be easier to chop off the head. She is enjoying her retirement years, has good health benefits and although she still lays the occasional egg, the farm makes sure they mix the shell back in her grain.
I am also good friends with Daisy, a retired ‘broiler’. Daisie is a bit shy, she mistakes everyone who approaches her for the two-legged creature that put so many of her sisters head first in a killing cone, back on the farm where she was rescued from.
So you see, I don’t mind paying $6 for a dozen eggs. Although I would rather convert my husband and not buy eggs at all, I consider the $6 as a good deed that might work in my favor, just in case I come back as a chicken in my next life.