Eggworld

Feb. 19, 2012

Both of my regular readers know that I’m hooked up with eggs, and as such I feel obligated to write about them every now and then. It’s actually been about six months since I filled everyone in on the straight poop from the eggworld. And when we say “poop” in the eggworld, I can assure you, we know what we are talking about. I’ve introduced myself to ag audiences over the years by saying that I have pretty limited personal background in food farming. The only thing I did before becoming a perfessor was to work for two summers on one of the early big egg farms down in southwest Missouri. I follow this up by saying “I won’t say what I did, but I worked with a shovel and it was good preparation for my career in agricultural ethics.”

This is always the occasion for an outburst of hilarity. I realize that if by chance I happen to have picked up a less agriculturally-informed or less-scatologically-inclined reader today, this may strike you as neither funny nor particularly meaningful. If so, don’t worry about it. Nothing in the rest of the Thornapple Blog depends on being down with barnyard humor.

So back to the eggworld. When last we visited this exalted clime I was pointing out that the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers had reached an agreement on “enriched colony housing”. One of the wonderful things about the internet is that instead of having to explain this to you again, I can just post a link to my blog last July. Then you can go look it up yourself and I can steam blithely along into mounting fog of the blogosphere. This is also the point in the blog where I usually insert some totally off-topic comment about the fact that although my word processor dictionary doesn’t recognize a perfectly good word like “permaculture”, it does recognize “blogosphere”, or I go off quoting some obscure song lyric like “Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long” in the vain hope that one of my readers will make the connection to what I’m blogging about and post a comment about how clever that was. Never happens.

So back to eggworld. The follow-up is that HSUS and UEP are having trouble getting Congress to take up this proposal. This may surprise you. One might think that when two groups formerly on such opposite sides of an issue come together on a proposal for action, our government would oblige them. On the other hand, this IS our government, so it may not surprise you to learn that it now looks unlikely that any action will be taken at all. The proposal is being opposed by the major beef and pork commodity organizations. My inside sources say that they are opposing it because they hate Wayne Pacelle, who is the President of the Humane Society of the United States, and they don’t want to give him any props to boost his street cred with the pro-animal homies. If this fails to strike you as either funny or meaningful, don’t worry about it. I don’t understand what I just said, either.

Of course, I don’t have very good inside sources outside the eggworld, so this is the point in the blog where I provide a link to last year’s blog where I explain that not everything you read here is necessarily true. It’s also the point where I go postal explaining my inside connection to the eggworld, but since I’ve already given you links where you can figure that out if you’re so inclined, I’m not going to do that. It could be that the mainstream animal producers are opposing this bit of legislation regulating eggs because they think it establishes a precedent for Federal regulation of farm animal welfare. If so, their action implies that they oppose regulation of farm animal welfare. I explained a rationale for being leery of a regulatory approach way back in one of those blogs I’ve already linked to, but if you’re confused, here it is again. But the argument there would not apply to producer groups that are actually asking for regulation, which is what the eggmen are doing. And some of you may have heard the stories by Dan Charles on National Public Radio. If not here (again) are some links. You wouldn’t want to be clueless in eggworld.

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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