When I speak to groups of people, I urge them to get to know the story behind their food—and to make sure that story is one they can be proud of. Last month's recall of nearly a half a billion eggs has pulled back the curtain on industrial egg production, and shown many Americans the story they never knew about how eggs get onto their plates. It's not a story eaters can be proud of. Nor is it one the farmer can be proud of. Nor is it one our food regulatory agencies can be proud of.
In fact, there are so many unpleasant realities in this story that we still don't know exactly which elements contributed to the presence of Salmonella—cramped cages, mouse droppings, dead insects, chicken feed containing chicken bone meal. [Editor's note: See Joe Fassler's timeline of violations on DeCoster egg farms in Maine.] But it's not just a story about eggs, of course.
Over the past year, the USDA and the Department of Justice have been holding antitrust workshops all over the country, examining how consolidation is affecting our agricultural system. They have listened to hog farmers, cattle producers, and dairy farmers in an attempt to understand what this means for small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers, and what this ultimately means for the consumer.