Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unhealthy 'Organic' Eggs in your markets

The healthier the hen, the healthier her eggs, and outdoor access to real chicken food instead of chemically processed feed is a major part of optimal health for food producing animals. A Mother Earth News 2007 study showed big differences in nutrition between factory-farmed and organically raised eggs.

Eggs from hens raised on pasture, compared to federal data on factory-farmed eggs, may contain: 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E and 7 times more beta carotene. These dramatically differing nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free-range pastured hens, vs. commercially farmed hens.

Health conscious organic consumers expect organic free-range eggs to be produced by hens that have ample access to the outdoors. But as The Cornucopia Institute says in a ground-breaking report, "a high percentage of the eggs on the market should be labeled 'produced with organic feed' rather than bearing the USDA-certified organic logo," because many of these birds never actually get to set foot outdoors. Mass-producing organic egg farmers circumvent the free-range criteria by providing tiny enclosed porches with roofs and concrete or wood flooring – a far cry from what most organic consumers would associate with the word "free-range."

According to Cornucopia: "Many of the porches represent just 3 to 5 percent of the square footage of the main building housing the birds. That means 95 percent or more of the birds have absolutely no access whatsoever."

Champoeg Organic Eggs (in Aurora, OR!) got the one-egg award in the report for "ethically deficient - industrial organics/no meaningful outdoor access and/or none were open enough to participate.”

Brands with a “1-egg” rating are generally produced on industrial-scale egg operations that grant no meaningful outdoor access. “Outdoor access” on these operations generally means a covered concrete porch that is barely accessible to the chick- ens. Means of egress from the buildings are intentionally small to discourage birds from going outside, and make it possible for only a small percentage of birds to have “access” to the outdoors. No producers in this category were willing to participate in The Cornucopia Institute’s project, and none shared their production practices with Cornucopia researchers. This is disturbing to many organic consumers, since transparency has always been viewed as a hallmark of the organic food movement.
Also slammed for prison-like farming techniques were producers whose eggs are likely to appear in your local markets: Chino Valley Ranchers, Eggland's Best, Eggology, Glaum Egg Ranch, Horizon Organic, Land O'Lakes, Nest Fresh, and Oakdell.

House brand labels like Costco's Kirkland Signature, Safeway's O Organics, Trader Joe's, Walmart's Great Value, and Whole Foods' 365 Organic also were found to be predominantly jail-farmed.

"Two-egg" outfits were described as

'Some Questions Remain Concerning Compliance with Federal Standards': These are either industrial-scale operations or others with outstanding questions or concerns regarding their compliance with USDA regulations. One of the primary features that distinguish these organizations from the ethically challenged brands below is their willingness to share with their customers (and Cornucopia researchers) some of the details as to how their chickens are cared for and how their eggs are actually produced.
The Country Hen was the only such egg brand likely to appear here.

Wilcox Farms, Stiebrs, Clover Organic Farms and Organic Valley (in order of quality) received a "Three-Egg" rating:

“Very Good”—Organic, Complying with Minimum USDA Standards. Brands with a three-egg rating are very good choices. Eggs from brands in this category either come from family-scale farms that provide outdoor runs for their chickens, or from larger-scale farms where meaningful outdoor space is either currently granted or under construction. All producers in this category appear committed to meeting organic standards for minimum outdoor space for laying hens.

Hi-Q's eggs got the “4-egg” rating:

“Excellent”—Organic Promoting Outdoor Access: Producers in this category provide ample outdoor space and make an effort to encourage their birds to go outside. They provide an excellent outdoor environment, often either rotated pasture or well-managed outdoor runs, with an adequate number of popholes/doors for the chickens to reach the outdoors.

Misty Meadows Farm, Trout Lake Abbey, Skagit River Ranch, Vital Farms, and Phoenix Egg Farm received the top "5-egg" scores:

“Exemplary”—Beyond Organic: Producers in this top tier manage diverse, small- to medium-scale family farms. They raise their hens in mobile housing on well-managed and ample pasture or in fixed housing with intensively managed rotated pasture. They sell eggs locally or regionally under their farm’s brand name, mostly through farmer’s markets, food cooperatives and/or independently owned natural and grocery stores and sometimes through larger chains like Whole Foods.

Thanks to for analysis of the report and background, and to The Cornucopia Institute for the research on these, and other, industrial farms masquerading as organic. And, here's a recap on what's really organic on Oregon/Washington eggs, with the best farms at the top, to add to your shopping list:

  1. Misty Meadows Farm
  2. Trout Lake Abbey
  3. Skagit River Ranch
  4. Vital Farms
  5. Phoenix Egg Farm
  6. Hi-Q
  7. Wilcox Farms
  8. Stiebrs
  9. Clover Organic Farms
  10. Organic Valley

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A New Yorker Don't Understand Necessities of Farm Life

The volunteers of the City of South Fulton Tennessee Fire Department are taking BS from Keith Olbermann, and it ain't fair.

The firefighters kept their word and met their mission, to protect the property of folks who pay for them, plus the lives of all nearby folks, and they could not have done more under the circumstances even if the guy had 'remembered' to pay his (exceedingly cheap in comparison to other rural fire departments) subscription (after, that is, he got his reminder call when he didn't pay from the notice mailed to him).  That subscription pays for the protection gear, equipment and training that lets them save lives, and the insurance which pays their medical if they get hurt on the job; it doesn't come from any county taxes which that overfed farmer paid.

And, the firefighters aren't covered in their health insurance if they fight fires on non-subscriber land. I'm pretty sure that's why the incident commander held them back, for their own safety.

Let's do the math.

It wouldn't have done any good, anyway. It's at least 8 minutes from the fire station to the fire (that far out of town, there are no hydrants, so they have to take a tanker, and tankers are even less like Corvettes than fire engines).

Add in
  • the time for the farm owner to notice there's a fire and report it,
  • the time for 9-1-1 to receive the call and to process it, 
  • time for volunteer firefighters to hear their pages/siren, drive to station, saddle up and get out,
  • plus the time once arrived for the chief to size up the situation, 
  • unpack the hoses, point them at the point of attack and 
  • get up pressure, 

it's more like 15 minutes from the time the fire is noticed to the time the first water pours onto the fire, by which time, that farmhouse is *toast* under the best of circumstances.

OBTW, I not only spent a few years or so growin' up on a similar farm, but I've been going out to fire scenes at oh-dark-thirty and answering fire calls as a volunteer for my local Red Cross chapter for over eight years. That's where my estimate of added time comes from, experience.

Look at the guy's property, and think.

If you live on a farm, out in the country (his location is marked with yellow circles), common sense dictates not only do you damn well support the folks who just might save your family, life and farm, you also have extinguishers and a high pressure hose and pump so you can put it fire quick and early yourself (like, in case there's a train sitting on the crossing, east of town, blocking the fire truck - look at the railroad tracks, in red, at left - and there's another rail line east of MLK, not shown in this picture).

And, if the county commissioners have been wrangling over this matter for two years, and your son had a fire three years ago (as noted on Countdown), well, you should be even more conscious of the need to spend the cost of a truck tank of diesel for your fire protection.

This is non-news, and I'm disgusted by the lack of common sense in Keith Olbermann's production team. This stuff is supposed to be checked before air, and they had a field producer on the spot with the camera and sound crew. If I can do it from Portland via the web, they darned well could do it in South Fulton.

Shame, shame on msnbc, and the folks who don't think before they open their mouths.