Years ago when I was a kid, eggs in the supermarket came in two colors: white and brown. Because I perceived the brown eggs as being slightly bigger, I suspected that they did not actually come from chickens at all, but something bigger like ducks or geese, or possibly an emu.
Of course, the brown eggs were exactly the same as the white eggs, but being a kid, I didn’t want to take a chance that I might make some mama emu mad, so I chose to stick with the standard white variety.
Some time later I found out that the difference between the brown and white eggs we eat don’t in fact have to do with the variety of the bird, but with the color of the hen’s earlobe. To me, this was so incredibly bizarre, because, truthfully, who even knew that chickens had earlobes, or even ears for earlobes, that I almost gave up eating eggs altogether, and it also gave me pause about saying disparaging things around chickens when they were in earshot of me.
Who even knew that chickens had earlobes, or even ears for earlobes?
Just as I was coming to terms with the whole brown earlobed/white earlobed chicken/egg relationship, I was shocked to learn that some chickens lay blue eggs. I was assured that this situation had nothing to do with earlobes or emus, or anything of that sort. I assumed those chickens were just trying to get a jump on the whole Easter egg-dying thing.
Anyway, I finally got used to the egg color conundrum and felt I could just focus on whether I wanted them scrambled, poached, or over easy, when a whole new category of eggs came of age. Suddenly, it was not okay to have just a plain old white (or brown) egg. Now you had to decide if you wanted an egg that came from a chicken that was free-range, cage-free, organic, or pasture-raised. You could get eggs from a chicken that was raised in a comfort coop (which I suspected was a chicken’s version of a Tempurpedic mattress) or nest-laid (as opposed to one that maybe was laid in someone’s sock drawer?). You could also choose to get an egg from a chicken that is vegetarian fed (Although I have never seen a hen tuck into a nice t-bone steak) or one that is enriched with Omega-3, which comes from hens that are fed flax seed (and also probably wear hemp booties and do yoga).
Eventually I realized I had to stop pondering all the egg choices and just choose something eggstemporaneously. As I stood in the supermarket trying to make up my mind, I noticed a new addition to the egg selection going on in the cold case. In section of organic, free-range, and cage-free eggs, there was a new contender on the block. These were called Ethical Eggs.
I wondered, what makes an egg ethical? Is it about how the chicken is treated? Is it about how the egg is treated? Or is it about how I’m supposed to treat the eggs? It was bad enough that I had a moral dilemma choosing my eggs. Now I had an ethical one? This was really just becoming way too difficult for someone who just likes an occasional omelette, and after some thought, I finally turned to the eggs and said what I really thought.
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