“Ethical Eggs.” “All-Natural.” “Cage-Free.” Are the approval stamps on egg cartons just marketing claims jostling for space on our grocery bills? Or can they tell us something about the lives of hens?
This week’s half-billion-egg recall has brought egg production under sharper scrutiny, amid an already swelling river of documentary studies and social movements critiquing animal food production. Last spring, Slow Food International opened a Cincinnati branch and hundreds packed into a lecture by food policy writer Michael Pollan at Xavier U. Just two months later, the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer surprised readers with a sweeping work of journalism and family history, “Eating Animals,” which includes a critique of Pollan’s arguments. In 2009 and 2010, stakeholders and experts convened for the city’s first two Regional Food Congresses, to discuss “the Cincinnati food system, its programs and practices, and to create a vision for change.” And this spring, over 500,000 Ohioans signed a petition in support of a referendum which would require that all of the state’s laying hens, veal calves, and pregnant pigs be given enough room in their cages to turn in a full circle and stretch their limbs.