97% of all eggs produced in the U.S. are from hens living their entire lives in tightly packed cages, typically six birds per cage. They never see the light of day. Thousands of hens are susceptible to any germ that enters the factory farm. To prevent plagues of illness that can wipe out large populations, their feed, which doesn't resemble anything free range hens eat, is heavily laced with antibiotics and hormones. It's no kind of life, even for a chicken.
2% of all U.S. eggs are produced by so-called cage-free hens. These hens are free of cages, but thousands are squeezed into a barn so tightly that there is even less space per bird than caged hens have. They never see the light of day. Depending on what they are fed, they are no healthier than caged birds, and often just as dependent on drugs for their existence.
Only 1% of eggs in the U.S. are produced from free-range hens that have the option to go outdoors at all. People shy away from free-range eggs because they cost more than twice as much as typical $1.50-per-dozen grocery store eggs. But what are we talking about? A carton of eggs is a protein bonanza: 87.6 grams of protein for about $3.66. What a deal!
Why are Americans so penny-pinchng when it comes to food? Certainly there are other choices: fewer designer jeans and sneakers, using electronics longer before trading them in, buying smaller cars that get better mileage. To scrimp on fresh, whole food is to invite disease and the high cost of medical care.
Sometimes, life throws us an illness or a challenge that forces us to re-evaluate our choices. But you don't have to wait: You can begin to prioritize your purchases by healthiness. You can change one habit at a time. To me, it's rather simple: I eat fewer eggs than I used to, but I buy them from a farm that sells free-range meat and eggs. They taste better. I look forward to them as a treat. A vegetable fritata is a low-cost, healthy meal...one of my favorites.
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