Whilst the issue of ethics is one that may seem to sit firmly in the cerebral realm of the philosopher, one may ask what purpose are ethics if they cannot be applied in a practical way to everyday living. Since ancient times, our greatest minds have grappled with the question of ‘the good life’, and how to live it. The question has given rise to many schools of thought, and mostly they have been concerned with the good life for humans. But as our understanding of the world around us has brought us to the realisation this planet is not created to be our exclusive domain, the question has shifted to include our fellow earthlings.
As the concern for animal welfare has grown, some of us have made the decision to boycott animal products all together, believing that this is the only possible course of action for a virtuous life. But as omnivores, animal products are natural to our diet, and in most cases, contribute to our health, nutritional needs and even psychological wellbeing. Whether you agree with this or not, it is apparent that abstaining from them for ethical reasons is a step too far for most of us. In other words, we may feel as if we are sacrificing our good life for the good life of another being. Not quite philosophy, I agree, but you get my drift.
Without getting bogged down in an academic debate that cannot be resolved here, I would rather turn my attention to eggs. Yes, eggs. Those wonderful little packages of protein and essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids that have proven to be one of the most versatile and delicious natural foods we can indulge in. Not only are they the king of every breakfast in the home or the café, they are also essential to so many foods, both sweet and savoury, that life without them may seem a little mean. Okay, there are probably Vegans jumping up and down right about now claiming that their soy mayo and their Enter-G Egg Replacer taste just as good as the real thing, but I’m not buying it. Anyway, I am not here to pick a fight with Vegans–I admire them for at least giving a shit when most consumers just don’t want to know. For those of us that want to eat eggs, however, surely the virtuous action for us to take is to learn about the choices we have and to choose the ethically farmed product.
When assessing whether a farming practice is ethical or not, we may have to ask ourselves what constitutes a good life for a chicken. As we are not actually chickens, we can probably, on account of that giant brain of ours, come up with the closest thing to the right answer. And that answer must be found in the ability of our farmers to provide chickens with an environment to practice normal bird behavior. If they can achieve that, and deliver a superior product to the market, then surely this is a win for all.
Our job as consumers is to look for those products, and to support them with our custom. In our region, there are a number of egg farmers that are passionately devoted to this ideal. Their eggs are not available from the national and multinational chains, but they can be found in your local store, at markets and even direct from their farms. More than that, they are employing farming practices that rejecting the industrialisation of food, which is good for the planet. In most cases they are on par in price with the inferior shipped-in product, and on occasion just a little more expensive. Either way, you will be supporting local farmers and actually making a difference to the quality of life for farm birds. Oh, and did I forget to mention, you will be blown away by the quality.