Also sponsored by Earth Pendant at PeacefulJewelry
Where do all the chickens roost?
The price of eggs in California more than doubled after the cruelty-free animal raising law went into effect. It was compounded by the avian flu outbreak, which created a national chicken and egg shortages. Prices have come back down a bit since their peak, as they should, because it really should not cost much to allow the birds to walk around a bit before they lay their eggs or are executed.
But I did start thinking about the number of eggs I was eating and how much each one cost.
Yesterday it occurred to me that I average about one egg per day. And since hens lay about one egg per day, that means that somewhere out there I have the equivalent of a hen dedicated to my happiness and health. In addition my wife and I consume about a chicken a week. I used to eat more than half, but now Jan is on a low-carb diet, so I think I can fairly say that I eat about a half carcass of chicken carrion per week, on average.
I live in a rural area, so I could keep chickens. Pretty many people around here do. And what they will tell you, confidentially, is that it is cheaper to buy eggs and chickens from the store (even at out high-priced local groceries). The reason is that on a small scale the inputs are much more expensive. Where my eggs and meat come from their may be hundreds of thousand of chickens in close proximity. So the "farmer" can bring in chicken feed by the truckload or trainload. It takes a lot of feed to make an egg, even more for a roaster. The finished product is a sort of concentration of grain, and so is cheaper to ship than the bags of grain you would buy to raise your own chickens.
Now suppose everyone in the world was given a fancy Western diet like mine. There are about 7.3 billion people in the world. That would mean 7.3 billion eggs per day, and 7.3 billion laying hens to produce them. At a half-chicken per week you would need 3.65 billion new hatchlings each week living long enough to grow to be fryers.
The world's population has more than doubled in my lifetime. While we got a grip on the worst forms of water and air pollution in the U.S. and many other countries, we mostly ignored the destructive force sheer numbers of people have on other aspects of the ecosystem and earth. You know the litany: deforestation, loss of species, bleaching coral reefs. And the vast destruction from the scale of agriculture needed to feed 7.3 billion.
Of course there is the vegetarian to vegan argument. If only we stopped eating meat (including eggs), we could feed so many more people. But I don't see people going that way, instead the new mass diet is paleo. If you don't eat the chicken or egg, you have to eat the equivalent in grain (or beans or something) to make up for it, so there is little real gain for the ecosystem on a large scale. There would be less cattle, pigs, and chickens, and more land devoted to a vegetarian diet for more people.
The only sensible thing is to have a global one child policy. Push the population back to 7.0 million, then 6.5 million, then 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. And keep it at 1 billion. But politicians won't touch the issue.
The closest we are going to get, in the short run, as far as I can tell, is picking a female leader in the United States. I know this frightens most men, and even many women, in the United States. But it has been done in a number of countries, and no disaster has ensued.
With a female President of the United States women should be able to set their sights on more education, better jobs, and less children. If we can slow down the rate of immigration (and the tendency of immigrants to have more children than native-born women), we can start a gradual, sustainable decrease of the U.S. population.
Meanwhile, I want to thank my laying hen. I know that, given the number of hens out there, it is not likely that I ever eat two eggs from the same chicken. But my chicken has at least a symbolic existence. May a big, fat grasshopper fly your way, little bird. Enjoy the meal.
|III Blog list of articles||