I had a great conversation about chickens and eggs the other night. I was sitting at her restaurant - The Fat Lady, in Oakland, California (on the waterfront at Jack London Square) waiting for my husband, when the owner came over to chat, as she usually does. We started on gardening and ended on chickens and eggs.
It turns out that in between owning and running a unique and busy restaurant, she also has chickens. This is not uncommon in the San Francisco Bay area, although urban laws do limit the number you are allowed. I grew nostalgic for the ones I used to have, every chicken with a name, and for those incredibly wonderful tasting fresh eggs.
So what about the eggs in the store? They now get there in record time from the farms. Aren't they just as good? They are "Best-by" dated and labeled. You can buy Cage-Free, Free-Range, Hormone-Free or Antibotic-Free, Organic, Natural, Vegetarian, Omega-3 and more kinds of eggs, at least in California. Can't we just choose the best ones?
Well, yes and no. As The Safe Food Handbook (the book, not this blog) argues (it has a whole chapter on eggs, with all the labels defined) you can't always trust the labels. That is also the point made by Food Inc. article of March 29 that I just looked at: "Egg Labels Aren't All they are Cracked Up to Be." To quote: "... how do you choose which type of eggs to purchase? Cage-free, free-range, organic—these labels all evoke images of happy, healthy chickens clucking through grassy fields. But in reality, these terms don’t guarantee the humane treatment of laying hens or the nutrient value of the eggs they’re producing."
Yes, I would like the hens that lay my eggs to be well treated. This is a big issue in California. But, I also want great eggs. In my case, it means best taste as well as best nutrients. Unfortunately it's not that easy. Not unless you have your own chickens.
I guess I am set for another family argument about setting up poultry farming in our urban back yard. Unfortunately, I will have to find a solution to the visiting omnivore raccoons. Even worse,there is our dog to consider, who will most likely assume that free-roaming chickens would be invading monsters and have them for lunch.
Oh and by the way, the latest long-term research results I have looked at argues that you can eat quite a few eggs a week without risking a heart attack.
To your good health,