Photo by Carol Ann Sayle
My grandmother, farm wife to a tenant cotton grower in north-central Texas, at the eve of the last century, loved her flock of laying hens and their accompanying roosters. She allowed them to be chickens, to scratch around the farmstead, eating worms and plants, take their daily dust baths, lay their eggs in a straw-padded nest box, and she daily dispensed the traditional treat of a bit of cracked corn. Her reward, other than enjoyment of their personalities and antics, was their wholesome eggs. The nutrition of these eggs helped her raise five healthy children.
Family lore never suggested that anyone got sick from eating the eggs. The possibility of her hens' harboring the salmonella bacteria was an unknown concept.
My grandmother is but a memory now, but I inherited her affection and respect for chickens, and the sense of responsibility to provide a natural environment that encourages good health. My flock is allowed the freedom to live as chickens should live, out on the land eating a variety of foods, breathing clean air, and sleeping in a protective hen house.
Sadly, however, in our modern world, where efficiency and price points are prized over compassion and health, laying hens have been sentenced to endure shortened, wheezing lives in horrendous, sunless concentration camps, fed the same dull, antibiotic-laced food every day. Under the resulting filthy conditions--where "hazmat suits" must be worn by workers removing dead hens daily from the crowded cages--everything can get spoiled, everything can become contaminated. It's no wonder consumers should worry about being harmed by the eggs they eat.