Sunny Side Up(date)

Ventured into the newsroom this morning.   Already in a ‘mood’ so what’s a little more irritation and angst?

Read the latest regarding food poisoning allegations and egg recalls.

Seems FDA Chief Margaret Hamburg needs more ‘power’ in order to do her job properly.   She’d also like to have greater authority over imported foods.

Funny, the tainted eggs came from farms in Iowa.  When did they become defined as foreign imports?

She is, however, taking the ‘egg problem’ very seriously.  Apparently laws that allow the shutdown of lemonade stands and small dairy farms (read here, and here, and oh, lookee, here’s another….) have failed miserably when it comes to keeping big corporations on the straight and narrow.  She simply must have more authority in her fight against evil egg producers.

She calls for more enforcement and preventative power.  Oh, and would you people please quit eating eggs sunny side up too?

(I can see aides and under-paid paralegals frantically adding that decree to some sub-section in the pending Modern Food Safety Act….)

Sheesh.   Have you no intelligence whatsoever?  Must we now legislate how your breakfast  be cooked, too?

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What really caught my eye was the long list of previous violations by DeCoster companies (seems the two main farms in this tragedy are owned by or heavily linked to Wright County Egg and Quality Egg, both owned by Austin “Jack” DeCoster).

Between 1994 and 2010, seems DeCoster companies have run afoul of and had to pay large fines for multiple offenses regarding harm to the environment, employees and animals.

As my eyes re-read the timeline, I noticed heavy involvement by Labor Secretaries, EPA, Immigration authorities and animal welfare groups… the list was long and varied, but allusions to different agencies involved made my mind fill in, “OSHA”, “Fair Wage & Labor”, “State Environmental agencies”…

I didn’t see FDA or subtle reference to such at all in the long list.   Guess they were anxiously sitting in their offices, unable to join in the battle because they didn’t have proper authority and power….

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Really, what kind of product did you expect from those who don’t care if hog waste runs off into local waterways, if  employees have safe and clean working conditions, who continually hire illegal immigrants willing to work for peanuts and suffer all kinds of indignities just to stay in the country and eat?  Apparently these folks also make the typical slave quarters of the pre-war south look like mansions when compared to the living conditions of their animals.

Rather than just blindly giving Ms. FDA some more power, me thinks perhaps a little more research is required.

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Some preliminary digging into historic egg prices tells me savvy egg producers plan for space and animal workforce management to counteract the dips in productivity compliments of the molting process.

(Which in chicken speak means, renewal time.  “I’m taking time off from reproducing and growing me some new feathers to replace these old, shabby ones.”   Nature does have a cycle.   Which, historically, is rebelliously out of sync with consumer demands….)

According to one poultry specialist report attempting to educate in regards to Flock Management the average wholesale price per dozen of eggs from 1983 – 2002 was 52.3¢.

I figure this is probably a good number, since the report was ‘sponsored’ by the United Egg Producers.  They better know how much money they get per dozen, else their 10-year approach to flock management will be severely handicapped.

This author also contends that prices took a jump in 2003.  Up to an average of .58¢ per dozen.  One section puzzled me:

“Are we entering a period of time for significant changes in the prices we receive for our eggs?  If so, should we re-think our replacement policies? If prices justify the elimination of molting is the industry prepared to make a major investment in new rearing facilities?”

How are they ‘eliminating’ molting?   Have they found the secret to keeping chickens from dropping their feathers?  How do the birds feel about this?  Did Mother Nature get the memo?

Further reading indicates they eliminate molting by selling off the chickens.  And replacing them with new ones, ready to lay….

Sometimes my cynical heart leads me to jump to conclusions….

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I also question the container in which these egg farmers are doing business.   A search to find who actually sets the wholesale price for eggs informs me it’s either complicated or on a need-to-know-basis, and I do not need to know.  (or perhaps I need to polish up my searching skills….it does happen….)

I did find this quote regarding poultry and egg prices from the USDA’s Economic Research website (tsk, tsk, last updated April, 2009):

“With almost 18 percent of total poultry production being exported, the U.S. poultry industry is heavily influenced by currency fluctuations, trade negotiations, and economic growth in its major importing markets.”

Okay, that’s interesting.   Has anyone heard the rumor a global economic crisis is going on?   Maybe egg prices were reduced in order to keep folks from starving due to poverty.   Lowered prices means egg producers need to get their profits from quantity, not quality….just a speculation…

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My brain committee speaks up about a gal I worked with years ago.

I never saw this gal wear the same outfit twice during the six months I was a temp in her office.   During a visit to her home,  my hostess proudly showed me her master closet, and two other full-size closets packed from floor to rafter with clothes. They made the local Goodwill racks look sparse and neat.

She was appalled I paid an average of $8/gallon for raw milk from an organic farm. (translation: small flock, healthy animals, modest lifestyle owners who love God’s creatures, great and small.)

She routinely went clothes shopping in order to keep her wardrobe and fashion plate status renewed.   In her mind, organic dairy farmers were interfering with my right to dress well.

When a society encourages fashionable, extravagant wardrobes over basic nutrition, then we all have a problem.

(No, I don’t look in other people’s medicine cabinets…It’s just her bad luck to combine a tour of her wardrobe with criticisms of my food choices…and my ability to type…)

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The buy-local-organic community cries “corporate farming” is the root of most of our evils.

I say corporate farming grew in the fertile ground prepared by a busy, complex society who values luxuries over necessities and demands ‘instant gratification’.

“I want an Egg McMuffin, My Way and I want it now!  Hurry up, I’m late for work.”

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Philip Zimbardo defines Evil as

The Exercise of Power to Intentionally Harm, Hurt, Destroy or Commit Crimes against Humanity.

He also contends it’s not just bad apples who commit Evil.  Often, it’s good apples who have been placed in a poor situation and are required to operate under a problematic system.

The plot thickens….

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The AP article listed over 3.5 million dollars paid by DeCoster Farms in fines and settlements since 1994, though I think they just highlighted the big ones.

Are the owner and his managers Evil people who must be stopped via a more powerful FDA?

Or are they business men trying to make a living in a system that demands short-cuts and piss-poor conditions just in order to make a living off a commodity they have no direct power in setting the price of other than through pricey lobbyists and campaign donations? (those two items do not come cheap…)

Have they grown so big and received so many tax breaks, they can survive even in the face of million dollar penalties, fines and settlements?

Did they grow to immense proportions through Taking Over the World Intent, or did they do their best to meet supplier demands in a price fixing system?

Did they discover they could not fulfill supply demands, profit requirements, regulatory fees, labor laws, environmental protection acts and good animal husbandry practices all at the same time?  Did they truly set out to destroy the average American or did they slide one slippery step at a time down a muddy slope built and maintained by our government and culture?

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One last observation – It’s amazing to me how I don’t have to go any further than my Yahoo email “What’s New?” tab to connect with reports on the Salmonella outbreak that simply cries out for more FDA power and authority.

Mainstream media is just in time as Congress reconvenes on September 13th and Senate Bill S510 is on the agenda.

I have to scan Facebook, read emails from a friend and surf independent blogs or small locally owned media to find out how local, state and federal authorities are wreaking havoc in the lives of small dairy, poultry and meat operations.

Via charges of regulatory, permit and licensing violations.

Resulting in operation shut down, seizure and/or destruction of personal property and Cease and Desist orders, punishable by jail time if ignored. (Grazin’ Acres, Bechard Family Farms, Rawesome organic co-op, Palmer Family Farm, Brigitte Ruthman just to name a few…)

These small farms were targeted via sting operations or unannounced raids by local regulatory agencies.   No allegations of tainted food, food borne illness, environmental hazards, labor violations or cruelty to animals have been made by those leveling charges.

They face extinction because they dared to provide themselves, their neighbors and local community with healthy, nutritious food.

But you won’t hear about them through Yahoo News or the AP.

Cause if you did, you’d tell Ms. FDA and the authors of S510 they already have power aplenty and they’d better start focusing their enforcement efforts on the proper targets.

Tyranny grows to power in the field of Fear and Hysteria.

No Wonder…

we are in the condition we are.  We simply cannot agree about anything.  Even eggs.

After months of complaining about Yahoo headlines showing up before my email in-box, I’ve adjusted.   I now peruse the morning news.

Hey!  You can teach an old dog new tricks.

One of the headlines that caught my eye today:  228M eggs recalled following salmonella outbreak.

Yes, I skim-read the story.   But in my usual manner to get to the bottom of what’s really going on, I skipped pretty quickly to the comments section.

I figure reading the comments gives me a better idea of where my fellow citizen stands on various issues.

I’m now convinced that S510 will probably pass.   As will Codex Alimentarius.  Simply because scanning the comments revealed cries that the government is not doing it’s job, maybe now folks will see what a great thing S510 is and so on…

Meaning security is more cherished than liberty, to my mind.

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I also noted there are either a lot of Obama opponents, or there are a few who have managed to sign up and use several different screen names.   Somehow, someway, many commentators managed to link his holiness to the present “poisoning of Americans”….

I enjoy a good conspiracy theory, but c’mon now, really?

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The majority of the comments I read (I made it through the last 90 of 900+), were peppered with the logical:

“Proper cooking and cleanliness while in your kitchen protects you from this.” (20+ comments)

The budget-conscious:

“I’m sick of hearing “buy local from the farmer”.  I use 6 dozen a week!  I’m stickin’ with Costco” (4+)

The trying-to-be-self-reliant:

“I have nutritious, honorably raised produce, but stores want me to sign a contract saying I will consistently deliver X amount every week.  Impossible for a small farmer” (2+)

The vegetarian:

“See?  If you would quit eating animal products, you wouldn’t have to worry about this” (3+, although, apparently, they’ve forgotten about the recent Tomato and Lettuce recalls…)

The brave:

“Read this while slurping down my morning protein shake with 4 raw eggs in it.  Feel great!”(17+)

The fearful:

“When are our elected officials going to protect us from death?   I’m so tired of them not doing their job.”(15+)

The detail-oriented:

“Why didn’t they give us information on when the eggs hit the store shelves and what code I’m supposed to look for to tell if the eggs in my fridge are on the recall list?”(5+)

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Sigh.   Reading the comments shows me that I fall in the same group as those who have boycotted reality TV (the minority).

On the bright side, I am reminded again of how great Freedom of Speech is…

See, now I have plenty to think about this morning:

  • How do the folks who lost a loved one to food poisoning feel about this?
  • Have Obama aides alerted him that several folks with funny screen names think he’s behind the outbreak?
  • Will Ms. small farmer survive in her chosen lifestyle?
  • Will Mr. protein shake be alive tomorrow?
  • Will Ms. Clean’s kids be in therapy someday, complaining about  her choice of ‘safe, clean kitchen’ over ‘cooking with my kids’?
  • How will my life look in 5 years, if so many around me would rather have security than choice?

Have plenty of food for thought to keep me entertained…