Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

Posts tagged ‘eggs’

Eggs and Philosophy

Undercover Video reveals a not so pretty picture

A recent undercover video taken by Direct Action Everywhere and released on the Now This facebook page shows the worst of the worst about hens involved in egg laying.

The video made me sick and I’ve a message for industrial agriculture – “clean up your act”.  The conditions of the hens and the environment they are living in are horrific.  It’s actors such as this that make it hard for those of us who don’t even think about animal husbandry being such as what is revealed in the video.  Animal agriculture is going to have to start standing up and condemning these types of practices and behaviors.  Don’t make excuses, own it, and fix it!

The hard truth and what makes the point of rubber stamping for humane practices an armed weapon for those opposed to animal agriculture is that this particular farm is “Certified Humane”, a project of Humane Farm Animal Care.  According to the organizations website, the program certifies products from farm animals that meet program standards related to practices required in the raising of the animals. Farms and ranches are monitored annually and may use the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® logo. Charges levied are to cover inspections and program costs which include promotional materials which help promote the products of the producers that are Certified Humane®.  Trust me folks, the fees applied aren’t cheap and certification predominately include large numbers of animals produced.

The organization has a “Humane Farm Animal Care Scientific Committee”, presumably who develop the standards that farmers and ranchers must meet for certification.  The Committee has some heavy hitters participating on it and I must wonder, what in the world they were thinking when they lent their names to something that doesn’t even come close to the definition of “humane practices”.

I can’t continue without describing the organization responsible for the undercover video, Direct Action Everywhere, is a network of animal rights activists claiming chapters in 160 cities in over 30 countries.  The organization, developed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2013.  It operates on the theory of “speciesism”.

Getting Educated about Speciesism

I’m not big on giving out labels or definitive categories so I had to do some research on this one.  The term delves deeply into the realm of philosophy.    According to Wikipedia speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences.  Broadly speaking in the world of animal activism it means the exclusion of all nonhuman animals from the rights, freedoms, and protections afforded to humans.  June 5 is considered to be World Day Against Speciesism.  Who knew?

Without delving too deep into the topic of speciesism, it appears to me that it means every living thing is equal and has equal rights, no matter human or non-human.  I’m assuming if you don’t believe in this equality or you behave against the principal theory you are akin to a racist or sexist. I dunno, sounds good!

Of course agenda motivation is the driving force behind the video, why else would it be undercover?  Was it for the purpose of exposing Humane Farm Animal Care and name lending to a rubber stamping of the “Certified Humane” label?  Was it to expose the bad behavior of industrial agriculture?  Or was it a push toward the public to support veganism and animal rights? I think it’s all of the above.

On the other hand, what can be the excuses from industrial agriculture.  Historically industry will repeat all of the things listed above and describe the people taking the video as terrorists. They’ll say that the particular farm and the conditions revealed wasn’t like that when it was audited for humane standards and certification. My question would be, what changed in the farming practices between the standards audit and everyday practices?  Is it business as usual except when the humane farm animal standards audit is conducted?

No matter what your belief about what you eat, what is revealed in the undercover video is just plain wrong.  It doesn’t take a room full of philosophers or theorizers to figure it out.  You decide!

Big Chicken Worming Its Way In To Organics

The big boys, industrial animal production that is, have slowly been worming their way into organics.  I’ve often called it the bastardization of organics which is no criticism of true organic producers only those who want to take over organics and make it just like the mainstream industrial food system they already control.

The latest comes from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).   A 60 day comment period on the Final Rule, Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in Shell Eggs during Production, Storage, and Transportation (Layers with Outdoors Access).  What to comment on is a draft guidance document to clarify how egg producers can comply with the original rule”.  The document that I printed out from the FDA website was a questions and answers type deal and interestingly enough it starts out – Draft Guidance for Industry!

While the Final Rule for prevention of SE in shell Eggs (the Egg Rule) became effective in September 2009 we now have to have more comments allowed to regulations that went into effect 4 years ago.  Talk about waste of taxpayer dollars, this might be a good place to cut spending to balance the budget.

I’ve no heartburn with ensuring food safety or preventing SE, it’s a must in today’s food system.  As a matter of fact we have testing done on our farm for SE and Whole Foods who we sell our eggs to requires it of all egg producers they purchase from.  What I do have heartburn with is that FDA is taking aim at those who allow real and true outdoor access for their laying hens and more specifically  certified organic which outdoor access is required in the National Organic Standards.

Since 2009, USDA has been allowing certified “organic” industrial sized farms that reportedly confine as many as 100,000 hens in a building to sneak around the organic requirement of outdoor access with screened in porches which allow a small percentage of the confined hen’s outdoor access.  The screened in porches can have flooring of concrete, dirt, or grass.  I can guarantee that there is no grass available for hens to naturally forage on in a screened in porch that provides outdoor access for 100,000 hens however USDA has been seeing it differently, allowing the porches to be claimed as legal structures.  Before you know it this will become the new “free range”!

FDA’s new guidance document includes covered porches as one of the four types of outdoor access systems for organic being used.  This has many of the real organic producers who implement real outdoor access in an uproar.  Decidedly, USDA and FDA have legitimized and paved the way for industrial organic production.  Before long, the National Organic Standards for eggs will be so eroded that the only difference between an industrial and industrial organic egg will be the type of feed fed to the hens.  That my friends will also become debatable as more often than not the organic feed supply will be compromised.

Back to FDA’s food safety “guidance document”!  Recommendations are that SE can be prevented through avoiding contact with wild birds.  Theory is that wild birds are a carrier of SE.  Oh please!  I’ve heard this same old song and dance with avian influenza in recommendations for biosecurity.  It’s an industry line that is supposed to legitimize confinement.  Nothing more and nothing less!

FDA is recommending to organic egg producers noise cannons, temporary confinement, netting to cover outdoor area, or structures with roofs (meaning porches) to avoid contact with wild birds.  I’ve many arguments against this.

First and foremost – Remember the giant egg recall for SE contamination?  The eggs recalled were from industrial farms raising tens-of-thousands confinement hens not from hens outdoors on pasture. What wild birds were flying around in the confinement houses?  Research abounds indicating that the threat from SE contamination comes from large scale industrial operations not from small scale pastured poultry.  It couldn’t be coming from the filthy conditions inside of confinement houses, could it?

Getting down to the nitty gritty, porches or structures with roofs is not outdoor access.  Let’s get real about this. When consumers think of organic certified that picture includes animals freely roaming outdoors on pasture.  FDA’s new guidance document misleads consumers as well as confuses them as to what organic is allowed to be.

Having a noise cannon to play with might be fun!  I wonder if you need a permit to own one and if there is a background check before you can buy one.  Are they expensive?  While you’re blasting away to scare wild birds off your hens will be taking shelter and shaking in their boots.  I imagine you will have some mortality in your flock as your noise cannon scare your hens to death.  I don’t think that using a noise cannon would be in the best interest to the welfare of your hens.

Utilizing “temporary” confinement until the threat of wild birds goes away might become permanent confinement as some wild birds don’t really go away.  Netting to cover the outdoor access area would be an unrealistic approach.  True organic includes maintaining soil health and is accomplished in part through pasture rotation.  It would be way too costly  and impossible for a real organic farmer to cover all pastures with netting.  Maybe that is the aim of the recommendations – make it too costly to allow hens on pasture and they will switch to confinement!

It appears that nothing is sacred anymore.  Ironically but not surprising is that the organic movement was scoffed at by industrial ag not so long ago dubbing it as coming from “left over hippies”.  Now that organic has become a huge market it is something the big boys want into and to take over.  It’s all about money and industrial ag knows that organic is big bucks these days as more consumers question where their food is coming from and how it’s raised.

This is not something new for industrial ag.  Takeover is what they do best.  Going back in history the same scenario can be seen when vertical integration and contract farming was ushered in and independent farmers were ushered out.  History is repeating itself and the deck is being stacked in favor of industrial ag.  Independent farmers had the choice of jumping aboard the train or get out of the business before the train runs you over.  Will the same be said for the future of organics?

Insanity in the House of Representatives

In keeping with the apparent theme of insanity running wild in Congress the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill. Of particular interest to me is an amendment introduced by Congressman Steve King (R), Iowa. Known as the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act” (PICA), King is crowing its victory of inclusion in the final markup of the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill.

Essentially, PICA “prohibits states from enacting laws that place onerous conditions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within its own borders but are produced in other states”, says Kings website.

Specifically, King points to “free-range eggs” or “free-range pork” saying that “PICA will ensure that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.” According to meatingplace, King’s statement wasn’t as well crafted, saying the amendment will “shut down the Humane Society of the United States, PETA and other radical organizations from creating a network of restrictive state laws that will slowly push agriculture production towards the demise.”

Iowa’s egg farmers lead the nation in egg production, caring for nearly 60 million laying hens producing nearly 15 billion eggs per year. That’s almost one out of every five eggs produced in the United States, says the Iowa Egg Council (IEC). What isn’t said is that the great salmonella enteritidis outbreak in 2010 was linked to DeCoster Eggs, whose huge egg production operations in rural northern Iowa prompted the recall of 550 million eggs and sickened roughly 2,000 people. IEC also doesn’t tell you that a former manager in the network of companies owned by Jack DeCoster, plead guilty in 2012 for his role in a conspiracy to bribe a federal inspector to allow the sale of unapproved eggs.

California is at the crux of the issue when state legislation becomes effective in 2014 requiring only ‘free range’ eggs are sold. Voters in California and other states choose this. King argues that “the impact of their [CA] large market would compel producers in every other state to invest billions to meet the California standard” of production methods.

This has nothing to do with protecting interstate commerce. It has everything to do with protecting industrialized animal production and forcing its products on states that clearly don’t want them. Wouldn’t it be nice if all farmers could get a guarantee of business mandated by our government?

It appears that Congressman King is promoting farm animal practices which aren’t conscientious of animal welfare, public health, or food safety. King only knows that his state produces a lot of eggs which translate to big bucks!

What can one expect from a congressional member who rabidly defended “pink slime” in 2012? Using phrases and words such as “lean finely textured beef”, “enhancement”, and “supplement”, King went on an aggressive campaign pledging congressional hearings against those who conducted a “smear campaign” against pink slime.

Adding salt to the wound, other members of the House Agriculture Committee went along with Kings amendment.  INSANITY!

Note: All links accessed 05/17/2013

What Came First – The Chicken or The Egg?

Here on the farm, we are making preparations to expand. Yes, I said EXPAND! The great egg adventure has blossomed into something viable. Imagine that folks – viability on the farm. More Girls for Bird’s Eye View Farm and of course more eggs. Our current supply can’t meet the demand for product.

Back in January, I participated on a farmer panel at the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (FH CASA) conference and our great egg adventure was used as one of several “case studies”.

Becoming a case study is something that I never considered when we first began. All joking aside, I had my doubts. Jumping into it was a leap of faith. As I told conference attendees we were flying by the seat of our pants in the beginning and in opposition to my colleagues successful case studies presented, I bluntly told folks – “do not follow my model”! Being a Guiana pig means making all of the mistakes and figuring out solutions.

If I had to do it over again I would have…… how many times do we say that in a life time? Exploring marketing and distribution would have been first before putting the Girls on the farm. I would want to know that I had outlets for product and have it figured out how I was going to get product to market – Note to self: Marketing and distribution, figure it out first.

Thinking back, I recall being told several times, don’t worry, the product will sell. That put me in a comfort zone and allowed me to relax and enjoy raising the Girls for 22 weeks. And then the eggs came! Getting the first eggs was a thrill and heartwarming because our grandson and my husband found the first ones. But then, more eggs came, lots of eggs!

Of course there are steps in between collecting eggs and selling eggs to consider such as washing, packaging, and cold storage. Washing and packing is done by hand (machinery is expensive) and a spare refrigerator works if you don’t have too many eggs. As the Girls increased egg laying the necessity for much larger cold storage space was presented. As any farmer knows, utilizing and modifying what you have is imperative for economic reasons – waste not, want not. There are not many of us who can go out and purchase a walk in cooler at the blink of an eye. Lucky for us, my husband ingeniously converted a pump room into a walk in cooler at a relatively low cost.

As the eggs started piling up the task of marketing became necessity! Marketing is a humbling experience for one who has never done it before. Thankfully, being an Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) Certified farm also meant that AWA lent a hand in marketing, free of charge. Who can afford to go out and hire a marketing firm to sell product? Sales began slowly and I had many sleepless nights wracking my brain thinking about markets. There are several ways to sell product. There is a lot of trial and error. Finding the way which best suits the individual takes time, patience, and persistence – lots of it.

Once the market was found, meeting the requirements of a buyer is something that never entered my mind until it was put before me. Researching Federal, State, and Local laws for production, processing, packaging, distribution, and selling is enough to make one’s head spin. Understanding and compliance is not the end of it. Each market or buyer has individual requirements and is something one should be well aware of before entering the market. Insurances, licensing, and permits for individual localities are a must.

Different types of packaging are something to consider such as chef’s preferring bulk (egg flats) in 30 dozen cases or consumer’s preferring half dozen or full dozen cartons packed in 15 dozen cases to suit the buyer and what sells best in the market place.

What size eggs do your customers want? Regardless of what some would have us believe, hens don’t lay uniformly sized or shaped eggs. Depending on the egg laying cycle of the hens decides what you get and how many. What do you do with eggs that don’t meet your customer’s preference?

Distribution – getting the product from farm to market can be a nightmare. Spending a good twelve hour day making deliveries each week was exhausting. Ensuring that product is kept sufficiently cool and as required by law is a must. Taking cost into consideration the question arises, will distribution cost outweigh profit margin expected after production and processing cost?

In my case, the chicken came before the egg! Was it a wise move? Probably not! However, I don’t have regrets over the roller coaster ride it presented! Settling on a market and developing a partnership with our buyer has been a relief to all of the unknowns mentioned above. I feel as if the farm has reached a point of serenity and life has leveled out over the past year. While not becoming complacent with where we are I’m a happy camper! Although eager to move forward I also realize that adding more hens presents new challenges. A new chapter in the great egg adventure!

United Egg Producer Certified….. For Real?

Warning – Sit back in your chair and grab a beverage, this one is lengthy.

One would think that as many years as I have under my belt in industrial animal production that nothing would surprise me let alone faze me. In other words I’m somewhat jaded.

A friend sent me a link to a video clip on You Tube that left me shaking my head and asking “are you serious”. A slick campaign has been conjured up to convince the general public that The United Egg Producers (UEP) have the “premier animal welfare” for their laying hens with their very own seal of certification.

After watching, I set out to discover exactly what it meant to be UEP certified not realizing what a herculean task this would be or how confused I would become. Like most, I first searched the internet and found web addresses for uepcertified.com, unitedegg.com, and uepcertified.org. Having a suspicious mind when I find that there is a commercial web address (.com) and a non-profit web address (.org) for the same entity, red flags rise up, and it warrants further investigation. I found that all three are one and the same – promoting corporate ag and caged/non-caged egg production in confinement buildings.

Further confusion came when I read the UEP website, unitedegg.com, and I quote, “United Egg Producers (UEP) is a Capper-Volstead cooperative of egg farmers from all across the United States and representing the ownership of approximately 95% of all the nation’s egg-laying hens.” I didn’t realize that independent farmers were producing the majority of the eggs in this country I thought the eggs came from the vertically integrated system whereby a corporation owns everything except the mortgage on the farm they contract with and the manure their animals produce. I warrant that this needs further investigation, but that’s for another time!

Wading through all of the B.S., and I’m being polite here folks, I came out having to go back a second and third time to figure it all out. I printed out the freely available UEP Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks which was found on both the .com and .org websites thinking that was the best place to start.

The 31 page document begins with a short history of egg laying chickens starting in the 1940’s and stimulates a not so wonderful picture of “small backyard flocks” producing the majority of eggs for our country at that time. It’s all in the wording folks that will lead you to think that industrial production and caged confined conditions that the corporate types now use are the best thing since sliced bread.

The first item that gave me a good chuckle is the claim that “the modern cage system has eliminated most diseases of the 1940’s, provided the hens with protection against the weather (environmental controlled housing) and predators, while also improving food safety, the environment (air and water), and animal welfare”. My perpetual habit of talking to myself left me wondering aloud “are these people for real”?

Most chicken diseases prevalent in the 1940’s have been eliminated, if not eradicated, due to development of vaccines, not cages. Secondly, “environmental controlled housing” is for the purpose of controlling every aspect of the chicken’s short life and wringing the most production out of the chickens. These people don’t give a hoot about protecting the hens the hens need to be protected from their way of thinking!

The insinuation that the modern cage system has improved food safety made me almost hysterical. Not so long ago a huge egg recall occurred because of salmonella and consumers becoming ill. The record speaks for itself. The companies involved are part of this confined housing caged system and UEP links to their website. I’d be willing to bet that the company is a member of UEP!

The claim of the modern caged system being an improvement for the environment “(air and water)” is more than hysterical. I had to stop reading and thinking for a while because I was simply flabbergasted. One of the talking points of federal legislation that UEP is promoting, H.R. 3798 that amends the Egg Products Inspection Act is – prohibition of “excessive ammonia levels in egg-laying henhouses”.

Highly acclaimed benefits of confined caged laying hens is that tens-of-thousands can be raised in a small amount of space (confinement building). Most often the building takes up less than one acre of land. Naturally, the hens excrete waste in the form of manure and an excessive amount of ammonia is produced. Where does everyone think that ammonia goes? For the benefit of those who don’t know – the excessive amounts of ammonia are released from the confinement houses into the air by way of huge exhaust fans. Not only is the ammonia released into the air, it comes back down onto the land and water as nitrogen making it available for excessive amounts of runoff into our waterways.

Secondly, how in the world does UEP think they are going to be able to stop the hens from excreting waste and producing ammonia inside of a confinement building, caged or not? If the theory of giving more space to the hens, which is included in the legislation I’ve mentioned, everyone better think again. This won’t reduce the number of hens inside buildings. Industry will only build the housing larger to accommodate the same number of hens, if not more.

The part about improving animal welfare gave me indigestion! No matter which way you spin it, a cage is a cage whether it is conventional, enriched, or cage free confinement buildings. The “enriched cage system” is the crux of the entire campaign and unbelievably “HSUS has embraced this which I wrote about in an earlier post. On the flip side evidently HSUS believes that this system will improve conditions for caged laying hens, making a trade-off that anything is better than nothing!

UEP’s Animal Husbandry Guidelines allow for beak trimming citing advantages that may include, and I underline the word “may”, reduced pecking, reduced feather pulling, reduced cannibalism, better feather condition, less fearfulness, less nervousness, less chronic stress, and decreased mortality. What this means is that beak trimming keeps the hens from picking on one another. If the hens weren’t bored to death being confined in a cage they wouldn’t peck on one another they would have other interests in pecking such as worms, bugs, grasses, or other items in the real natural environment.

The drawbacks of beak trimming cited by UEP guidelines are inability to feed, short term pain, perhaps chronic pain, and acute stress. Obviously and in the mind of UEP, these are all fair tradeoff’s in the welfare of the hens so that long term the hens don’t peck one another to death out of boredom from being caged. Never mind that inability to feed or chronic pain is at issue as well. I don’t suppose the thought that the entire method of raising confined caged hens is not in the best interest to the welfare of the animal.

UEP’s talking points for the proposed federal legislation says that it will provide egg laying hens with “nearly” double the space of current conventional cages and add “”enrichments”” such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas that will allow birds to express natural behaviors.” Sounds good when one looks at the words however the hens will still be in cages!

As I’ve evidenced in my great egg adventure, our hens express natural behaviors by running, jumping, flying, perching, flapping their wings at will, dust bathing and digging holes until they are almost covered, foraging for worms, bugs, and grasses and many other antics they decide to participate in. They also have nesting boxes and are able to run freely inside and outdoors. That my friend’s is expressing “natural behaviors”!

Furthermore, and according to UEP, “Today there are approximately 235 egg farmers with flocks of 75,000 hens or more. These farms care for about 95% of the approximately 290,000,000 laying hens in the United States.” How can there be only 235 farms raising 290,000,000 laying hens in this country? I found it impossible to find the number of acres utilized however I think the numbers above are self-explanatory.

I noticed in the many video clips available from UEP that the hen houses and cages are immaculate and promote thoughts of a sterile environment. Anyone who’s ever raised livestock or has been inside of a barn knows that animals naturally defecate however from what UEP is showing their hens must not do it. Quite frankly the inside of the confinement caged hen houses is cleaner than most human populated houses according to the pictures shown. Maybe we should all go and live in hen houses!

In my wanderings through related info and websites I found that UEP had a contact person from GolinHarris for further info about the legislation I’ve mentioned. My first thought was “what’s a GolinHarris”? I took a peek and found a piece of interesting info and decided to look no further because it was enough to figure out what a GolinHarris is -“For our clients, Communicate to Win is a driving force for building, sustaining and protecting corporate brands and reputations around the world.” Of course there’s a lot more words on the website, enough to make my head spin.

UEP is spending big bucks to drive through legislation that will define labeling allowances for eggs – Require labeling on all egg cartons to inform consumers of the methods used to produce the eggs, such as: “”eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” eggs from cage-free hens,” and “eggs from free range hens.” Aha! Eggs from hens in enriched cages…….. A little too obvious for me! Why anyone in their right mind would think that defining the type of cage or confinement makes it better for the hen’s welfare is beyond me. Doesn’t congress have better things to do than protect those who would mislead consumers into thinking that eggs from “enriched cages” are somehow better?

Hoodwinking Egg Consumers

I received a heads up this morning in my email about an issue of consumers being bamboozled by labeling on egg cartons. A lawsuit was filed in California by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) Suing Bay Area Egg Producers for False “Free-Range” Advertising. Imagine that!

Named in the suit are Judy’s Family Farm Organic Eggs (Judy’s Eggs) and Petaluma Egg Farm for violating California’s consumer protection laws. ALDF assisted by the law firm Fazio/Micheletti, is asking that Judy’s Eggs be prevented from using images implying that its eggs come from hens which are not confined and in an outdoor environment. Packaging contains a written message that states “hens are raised in wide open spaces in Sonoma Valley, where they are free to roam, scratch, and play”. Actually folks, the hens are crammed into sheds with no outdoor access according to ALDF.

I’ve talked about this in earlier posts of The Land of Confusion and I really hate to say “I told you so” but hey, if the shoe fits…….. This issue is not confined to California it’s happening all over the country!

While the class action lawsuit aims to prevent the use of images which dupe consumers into believing the eggs come from “real” free range hens I can hear the arguments from the defense about the use of words.

What exactly does “hens are raised in wide open spaces in Sonoma Valley, where they are free to roam, scratch, and play” mean? Under the ambiguous wording of current allowances for “free range” it could possibly mean that although the hens are confined in large open sheds they aren’t caged therefore they are free to roam, scratch, and play. Open sheds could mean that fresh air is allowed in through windows or curtains however there are no doors or openings for the hens to go outside. In addition, organic standards only require that hens have access to the outdoors.

Those who make our laws, regulations, and standards have allowed for loopholes leading to the bastardization of free range. Ever since the market demand for free range and best animal welfare practices soared, those who are looking only for company profits have infused the market with deception. Furthermore, our government, so far, has let the vagueness in word meanings to continue.

For those of us who practice real free range and implement best animal welfare practices it becomes a frustrating merry-go-round. For all intents and purposes the idea of free range, high animal welfare, and organic wasn’t conceived upon the notion of how can we play with words and pictures to rip off consumers. We work hard to achieve the level of farming that consumers are looking for and personally, what I think is self-satisfactory. Allowances for greed to rare its ugly head and diminish those efforts, is unacceptable. Four words keep surfacing in my head. Morally and ethically versus unfair and deceptive!

Maybe in the next go round of writing laws, regulations, and standards a section should be added specifically stating what the words don’t mean. In other words – free range doesn’t mean that animals only have access to the outdoors or that they have room in a confined building to roam, scratch, and play.

Many Thanks and Some Thoughts

I’ve been overwhelmed this week with many heart felt comments and well wishes for the farm and my work. I have to admit that I’m stunned! All joking aside….. I sat here at my computer in amazement. I had no idea that so many people cared or recognized how horribly messed up our food production system is.

Food INC gave a glimpse into the food system that dominates our country and for my part I can say that I’m only one of thousands of farmers. Many of you have commented on the difference in my appearance or looks from Food INC to now. One commenter described me as looking haggard during my Food INC time and I have to agree. It’s a look and mental condition that I recognize well in the faces of my farmer friends who are stuck in the industrial system.

Taking that a step further…. I know so many who are stuck with no way out. They’ve been beaten down to the point of exhaustion. Many have lost the will to fight a power that is so great that there is no place that can’t be reached through wealth and influence. Facing complete financial ruin for one’s self and family is a powerful tool to ensure silence and compliance. I view myself as being blessed and lucky to have gotten out from under the thumb of corporate agriculture however I haven’t forgotten the many who haven’t. It will take a tidal wave of voices to free farmers from the restraints that bind them.

You are the people who will force change through spending hard earned food dollars in different ways and by electing officials who can’t be reached through wealth and influence. Other than the status quo!……….

The changes here on the farm have been dramatic and in my neck of the woods, the Delmarva Peninsula, our way of raising chickens is almost unheard of. A funny incident that happened a couple of months ago brings this point home – A man and woman were riding bicycles past the farm and I was out with the chickens. I could hear the woman shouting to the man “oh my God those chickens are out of the chicken house, they’re loose” and kept pointing and shouting! I had to holler back to assure her it was okay “they are free range chickens”.

Implementing a whole new way of farming and having the freedom to make all the decisions about how things are done is a refreshing and rewarding experience. Wanting to get out of bed and face the day on the farm is no longer a dreaded thing.

Having said that, I won’t gloss things over and say it’s easy. Along with the refreshing and rewarding – it’s hard work. I’m no longer just a farmer! I’ve learned about selling product; designing packaging and labeling; collecting, washing, and packing eggs according to food safety regulations (and learning the regulations); and coordinating deliveries and being the delivery driver…… the list goes on! These are things that independent farmers have to do.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have had excellent tech assistance through the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) program. Having been audited and certified by a third party, AWA, other than knowing that we are raising our girls in the best welfare practices we can, benefits have been assistance in all of the things I mentioned above. Without AWA? I wouldn’t have known where to begin.

For those of you who’ve asked about where our eggs can be purchased. Bird’s Eye View Farm eggs are available at Whole Foods stores in Annapolis, MD , Harbor East and Mount Washington in Baltimore, MD. They are also available at Cowgirl Creamery in Washington DC, Arrowine, Westover Market, and European Foods in Arlington, VA. We don’t sell meat chickens.

Having so many wonderful people, most complete strangers to me, joining me in my great adventure is the best. Somehow, saying “thank you” to all of the kind words, thoughts, support, and wishes, seems lacking. But it’s all that I have….. Thank you!