Tuesday, August 24, 2010

what you need to know about the egg recall

Thanks to Salon for publishing a quick list of "need to know" facts, such as where to find out if your brand is affected, the symptoms of salmonella, etc.

Recalls like this are why it's increasingly in our interest to unplug ourselves from industrial agribusiness where possible. I realize that sounds hyperbolic, but clearly mainstream food production has become so centralized and so poorly monitored that massive summertime food-borne disease outbreaks and attendant food recalls are becoming commonplace. Even the FDA has admitted that they lack the funds and manpower to "shift from reactive to preventive."

There is a way to innoculate yourself from the annual poisoning of the American consumer: buy local. Despite the assurances of the free marketeers that it's "in the interests of big business" to provide a safe product, industrial agribusiness has a terrible record when it comes to food safety compared to your local farmer. The reasons for this are pretty obvious, I think:

  1. what does minimum wage (or worse!) worker #4,972 care whether he's really thoroughly washing the lettuce, or keeping the eggs at a safe temperature, or making sure there's absolutely no paint chips falling into the peanut butter?

  2. the giant company that supplies billions of eggs a year to half the country will be inconvenienced by the recall, and will have a bad year for profits, but will survive and be in perfect form again in a year or two. If the guy at the poultry booth in the farmer's market sells bad eggs and his customers get sick, between losing the trust of his customer base and the hell that state/federal regulators will call down on him he'll almost certainly go out of business.

Nevermind the remarkable difference in quality and taste between local free range and industrial eggs. There are some foods where there's little change in taste between the local and industrial stuff, and others where it's night and day. In my experience tomatoes, strawberries, grass fed beef, and eggs are the products where the difference is starkest. The eggs even look different on the inside: you don't realize how pale and flabby and unappetizing industrial yolks are until you crack open a local, free range egg and see one of those dark, almost burnt orange, thick yolks sitting almost perfectly spherical in the pan.

Buying local means not having to worry about national recalls.

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