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Friday, June 11, 2010

Chicken and the Egg Part II

So, last Saturday I was craving an egg-and-cheese on a bagel, something that I have mastered in the kitchen, now that I no longer eat eggs out. (Sidenote: to all my friends who have been thinking about visiting me, there is no bigger enticement than a homemade egg-and-cheese on a bagel...or croissant).

Alex had mentioned the Adams Morgan Farmers' Market, one that we had never been to. When we got there, it was small and dismal compared to the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market. I was not on the hunt for produce, so I started asking if folks had eggs. One farmer said he did. So, I went into my usual questions (for those who have asked what questions I ask --- cough: mom--- here they are!):

Me: Are your hens roaming freely outside?
Farmer: Well, they are not kept in cages.
Me: That's good. But are they kept outside?
Farmer: Well, they are my neighbor's chickens. And I don't think they are outside because the foxes will get them.
Me: Okay, well... do you know if they clip their beaks?
Farmer: No, they don't.
Hmmm... That did not sound convincing to me. It looked like it was soy milk and cereal for me. I saw another vendor, one that Alex had looked into for a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), Star Hollow Farms. So, I went over and asked him the same questions:
Me: Are your hens roaming freely outside?
Farmer: Yes.. They have a quarter-acre pasture.
Me: Oh, that is great! Do you clip their beaks or claws?
Farmer: Well, we get them as chicks, and their beaks are already clipped.
Whoa. In the Chicken and the Egg Part I, I wrote that many farmers cannot escape the grasp of the factory farming industry, and this was one such farmer. He was doing the best he could, much better than most, but he didn't hatch his own chicks. From what I have read, hatching chicks is not an easy thing just to pick up, even for a farmer who has hens. It is comparable to asking a guitarist not just to learn how to play the instrument, but also how to make it.

So I told him that I valued what he did, but that humane treatment of animals was not something I could compromise on, and thanked him. He was understanding.

Well, Alex took Winston home because he seemed tired and hot, and I bustled over to the U Street Farmers' Market to get eggs from a trusted source, Pecan Meadow Farm. When I got there, I asked them how they got their chicks with their beaks on, since I had learned during prior interrogations that they did not have a hatchery. (As you may know, farmers are not subject to Miranda warnings: 7-2 decision in 1997, Thomas and Scalia dissenting because the constitution does not mention Miranda by name, but if everybody else has the right to Miranda warnings, farmers should be too.)

The farmer at U Street informed me that he called the hatchery and specifically asked that the chicks come with their beaks and claws on. He gets his chicks from Reich's Hatchery and Moyer's Chicks. He has never had a problem getting chicks with their beaks and claws on.

So, it is possible to get chicks with their beaks and claws on. Maybe Star Hollow doesn't know about Reich's Hatchery or Moyer's Chicks. (Note to female Phillies fans: there is a rumor that the first 5000 females in attendance at any Jamie Moyer start get to keep their beaks. Robert Reich fans: there is no equivalent promotion at this time.) But I will be sure to email Star Hollow and let them know that it is possible to get chicks that haven't had their beaks and claws removed and there is a demand for eggs from those hens.

If you have ever seen a photo of a little chick getting its beak clipped, I suspect you demand it too.


  1. This is so interesting. I tend to just assume that all meat products at a farmer's market come from animals that were humanely raised in the open air, as nature intended...

  2. I only wish that were true, Mo Farbs.

  3. You would be happy to know John and Pat Tosto have 12 chickens at the barn, beaks and claws in tact roaming around happily in the lawn during the day and all voluntarily nest in the coop at night! So when you come to door county, there willbe fresh humane eggs for YOU!!