When taking a news writing class last semester, we were asked to choose a topic, interview people, and ultimately report it. The topic I chose was my University’s food supplier only uses cage-free eggs. I see this as a problem. Not only does it drive up the cost to the food supplier and ultimately students, but we do not have a say in the matter and many are misinformed about it. When asking one student on whether or not she cared if we used cage-free eggs she said, “Yeah I do. It’s healthier, right?”
No, it’s not healthier but the problem is many people do not know what to believe anymore. The truth is, the conditions the bird was raised in does not affect the nutritional quality of food. “Cage-free” birds may never even go outside.
So while many buy “cage-free” and “free-range” eggs with this image in mind…
it’s not possible to produce enough food that way to feed everyone on God’s green earth.
Below is my story I wrote for class. Free of my personal opinions, I hope it tells both sides of the story and give an insight to the truth.
Over 280 dozen eggs are cracked open a week in Arkansas Tech’s Chamber’s Cafeteria. In order for these eggs to be used by Tech’s food supplier, Chartwells, they must first pass a set of regulations. For over 10 years Chartwells has used cage-free shell eggs, according to director of dining services, Todd Nixon.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines cage-free eggs as indicating “the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.”
The decision on whether or not these cage-free eggs are best can become a conflicting topic.
Nixon said he believes that Chartwells using cage-free eggs is more humane and even purchases them to use in his own home. He said he believes that students are not as concerned with the topic as older adults are, however, as a corporation Chartwells tries to look at the big picture of the humane treatment of animals, using sustainable fish, reduced antibiotic and hormone free milk and meat, and use local food as often as possible.
A sign hung in the Arkansas Tech cafeteria, proclaiming their use of cage-free eggs.
New marketing schemes used in the cafeteria, such as signs hung in the hallway, have added to students realizing the food requirements Chartwells uses. Freshmen undeclared major, Marissa Pacheco, who is a vegetarian said she noticed the newly hung posters and signs.
When it comes to whether of not the cafeteria uses cage-free eggs she said, “I don’t really see a difference, honestly.” Junior math major, Nicholas Harvey, also said he does not see a difference, stating that he has not put much thought into the matter.
Despite these students’ answers, Cass Capen-Housley, event coordinator for the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Hospitality Administration, said she believes that students do care about the way their food was raised on the farm before it reaches the table. In her own home, Capen-Housley said her family chooses to use locally grown meat and eggs and believes students prefer this as well.
“They want this connection to where their food is coming from,” she said. Capen-Houseley added that she has witnessed her students asking more questions and wanting to be more informed about food production practices.
Using cage-free eggs does have its disadvantages, according to head of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Malcolm Rainey Jr.
“I understand the rational in why people feel it’s a good thing,” Rainey said, “but on the other side of that, ultimately this pushes up food costs to our consumers.” He said while he recognizes the public’s concerns for animal rights and welfare, there is research showing that the birds are not harmed by the use of cages and ultimately consumers can benefit from the low-cost of food.
Rainey said he believes that there is not a good public understanding of antibiotics and hormones within our food supply. He stated that when antibiotics are required in animals, there is a period of waiting time for it to leave the animal’s system before it can enter our food supply. He also said that the level of hormones used in animals is very low and tested for the safety of consumers, if they are used at all. “In chicken,” Rainey said, “there’s no such thing as that happening anymore, that’s against the law.”
Both Rainey and Capen-Housley offer similar advice to consumers: to educate themselves when making food choices.They both agree farmers or local extension agents are reliable sources to obtain facts about which type of food or label to purchase.
Rainey concluded saying, “Our consumers should be aware and work to be educated by obtaining their information from legitimate sources before they make decisions on what they should be concerned about.”