When it comes to food production in America, ignorance can be total bliss. However, those raising food at the local level prove that being close to the source of your food can be just as blissful.
It’s safe to say that majority of us are fairly distant from our food sources, partially because of how mass production engulfs our food systems. Who’s to blame? Definitely the terrifying evil that is the American corporate world, along with the industrial revolution in the ‘50s and probably the patriarchy to some degree. (It’s just a feeling.)
Anyways, what this means is that good food awareness takes effort and mindfulness. It’s a mental adjustment I tried to take on more seriously when I became vegetarian. Through this, lots of common, non-meat foods quickly became problematic, starting with eggs.
It became fairly obvious how disconnected I was from this food I ate so often. I operate out of a 24-hour desire for breakfast food, which meant there were some serious considerations to be made.
More people nowadays are fairly up to speed on the ugly truth about commercial chickens farms. Many mass farms keep hundreds of chickens crammed in dark cages, pumped with hormones to the point where they can hardly walk more than a few steps. Check out “Food, Inc.” for the sobering reality about chicken farms and other top food industries in the U.S.
However, it’s also something you could easily never think about. This is why small changes in practice, like shopping more considerately, can be a good way to start.
Any well-intentioned shopper could be confused by the vague egg jargon that’s out there. Here’s a brief breakdown, with help from WebMD, of some common egg types and what they entail. I call this “The Eggs You See At The Store That All Seem Pretty Good But Who Really Knows.”
USDA organic: these hens were fed with organic feed free of toxic chemicals and pesticides. Usually, but not necessarily, these chickens are cage-free.
Cage-free: these hens are not kept in the horrifying, tight cage systems you see in “Food Inc.” However, it’s possible that they are still kept in very close quarters. A stressed chicken generally means a less quality egg.
Free-range: hooray! These hens were actually allowed to roam around outside and were probably happy to produce quality eggs for you.
Pasteurized: These eggs were heated up to kill bacteria. This is done more out of human health concerns than any benefit for the chicken.
It takes some effort, but lifting the veil of your food’s source can make for better-connected, more ethical engagement with the world.
Cera Faubion is a local, down-to-earth Bellingham-er and Western geology alumna, who talked to me about her personal commitment to being close with her food. Faubion and other community members raise sheep, goats and chickens, and enjoy sharing their surplus eggs with the community.
“This is what I think is right for me,” Faubion said. “I hope that people can pursue thinking about what their own individual connections to their food are, and how deeply they want to be connected to their food.”
If you can’t go out and start the sustainable farm of your dreams, Whatcom County still offers other options for the shopper with a heavy conscience.
There are an abundance of local farms nearby that offer organic eggs, among other produce and meats. Many of them sell at Bellingham Farmers Market and the Community Co-op, as well as providing fresh ingredients to places like Pizza’zza and Fiamma Burger. Cedarville Farm, Misty Meadows Farm and Meadow Fed Farms are just a few solid options.
“Taking the time to follow the trail of typical food, and then reaching out and trying to see what’s available in the community, the more you learn, the more that’s open and available to you.” Faubion said.