I have been eating a lot of eggs lately from many different locations. I have been in the habit of purchasing eggs from Farmers on the Square, but have not been able to the past two weeks. My eggs have come from my roommate’s egg container (Nellie’s Free Range Eggs; Lebanon, New Hampshire), purchased at Giant, or wherever our eggs from the Dickinson Dining Hall come from. I am uncertain of where those are from, as Dickinson is not transparent about it. Though Dining Services has sustainable vendors listed on the dining services website, there are a lot of other food items served with unclear origins.
With Nellie’s Free Range Eggs, they emphasize how their hens are treated with love and respect. They are not caged and there are many pictures of smiling white children cradling the chickens. Though the company is based in NH, farms are located all around the NE and Mid Atlantic. I could be eating eggs from close to home in Ohio, or even in PA. Or, they could be from much farther away than that. Most of the farms are in Ohio and PA, which is fitting because the top 4 egg producing states are Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and PA. Therefore they are coming from most likely 460 miles away at the farthest. Caged chickens struggle to find space in confined areas, which is especially problematic and stressful when it comes time for them to lay eggs. There are a lot of discrepancies between egg producing practices that are often fairly misleading; “free range” can still mean a life of stress and exposure to parasites for chickens, because of predators and outdoor access. The meat industry allows for more loopholes in animal cruelty and “cage-free eggs”, including no space requirements. Environmental concerns from chicken raising also arise; eutrophying and acidifying emissions, as well as ghg emissions. Runoff is a huge concern for surrounding water bodies. Many caged hens are fed corn and soybeans, subsidized monoculture crops which can decrease soil fertility and require mass amounts of land to meet the growing demand. Additionally, labor associated with chicken farming can be unethical. Dealing with the smell and gross details of chicken farming, especially for lower pay, is not safe for the health of the farm workers.
The bread I have most frequently been consuming is King Arnold 100% whole wheat bread. The “sunbaked seeds” which the wheat, other grains, and seeds grow from are not mentioned, but most wheat in the US is grown in Kansas. Wheat farming requires a large amount of land, and most of it occurs in moisture deficient areas. This means irrigation is needed, which is high cost for farmers and resource heavy. Most farms use nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer, so there is a concern of runoff into water bodies. Over time, depletion of soil due to chemical fertilizers and lack of crop diversification is a long term concern. New wheat technologies including genetic modification (which discourages saving of indigenous varieties) and high inputs also come with wheat farming.
Most of the spinach I have been eating is coming from the Dickinson College Farm. Through the winter, we are still able to grow greens in the high tunnels, though not as much as we would be able to outside. They must be irrigated, which is a water-intensive process, and require farm labor for seeding, taking care, harvesting, and transporting from the farm. At the DCF, the farm labor is fair and ethical, but in other locations that may not be so. Additionally, spinach was ranked second on the Environmental Working Group’s 2019 “Dirty Dozen” in order of the most residual pesticide contamination. Even after being washed, spinach still holds a high concentration of pesticide contamination overall, leading to health concerns for consumers. An average of 7.1 different types of pesticides have been associated with spinach samples in the EWG testing processes. Pesticides most commonly associated with spinach are fungicides used to kill mold and mildew, a neurotoxic insecticide (permethrin), and pesticides like DDT/it’s breakdown products. Even though DDT has been banned for many years, residues were found in 40% of spinach samples. The spinach I consume could be anywhere between 7 miles away to 100, I would guess.