Senate Bill 329 — Which came first, the politician or the egg?
Most people can tell just by looking, but the Missouri legislature this year held a slew of debates, hearings, and votes in its attempt to decide exactly what an egg is. They finally settled on a definition they could live with. But it will just spell more intrusion and regulation for farmers and farms large and small.
The legal definition of an egg formerly only included that which came out of the bottom of a chicken. Now, after Governor Nixon’s signature on Senate Bill 329, “Eggs” refers to “The shell eggs of a domesticated chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea that are intended for human consumption.”
Apparently no one told the government the definition of the word is not allowed to contain the word itself. (e.g “What are eggs?” “Well, they’re eggs!”)
According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, “Egg quality is highly important to most consumers. That’s why the Weights, Measures and Consumer Protection Division licenses egg producers, dealers, and retailers and also inspects eggs sold in Missouri for quality.”
An expanded definition of “Eggs” means more farms where a government inspector has the last word on what we believe our farmers know best.
“But,” one might protest, “government regulation helps keep us safe!”
A nice sentiment, but here are two examples to inject a dose of reality into it.
1) Last year, an E. coli outbreak hit central Missouri. There were 19 confirmed cases across a five-county region; most, but not all, of them had recently consumed raw milk from a dairy farm in the area—a farm that served around 2,000 people every week.
Raw milk being a favorite villain of health departments, the Missouri Department of Health sprang into action, testing eight separate samples of milk from the farm. All of them were clean. But the damage had already been done.
Antagonized and shaken by the news media and state health department, the farm shut down.
Once the farm agreed to stop selling legal raw milk to the public—milk which had never been shown to be a health threat—the state health department ceased its investigation into the cause of the E. coli outbreak. In other words, the state regulators managed to bully a small business into closing its doors, remove a product from the marketplace that thousands of people were enjoying, and in the end did absolutely nothing to improve public health or even ascertain the source of the outbreak of a dangerous bacteria.
Read the full story here.
2) A local farmer we know (who shall remain herein nameless) recently talked about the inspection he received from an official from the Department of Weights and Measures. The farmer, who had a small-scale egg-producing operation, offered to let the inspector see his hen house.
“No,” said the inspector, “I just want to see your scales.”
“Well, I don’t have scales,” the farmer replied. “I don’t grade my eggs; they’re sold as ungraded eggs.”
“Oh,” said the somewhat surprised inspector. “Okay then. Well then you’re good.”
“But don’t you want to see my chickens, my feed, my hen house?” asked the farmer.
“Nope,” the inspector replied.
This farmer was raising his chickens in a humane, healthy manner. But if he hadn’t been, who would have ever known it? Who would have ever bothered ensuring that the eggs he was selling were of sufficient quality for the customers whom the Department of Agriculture says the Department of Weights and Measures inspectors are there to protect?
Come to think of it, we all know how most eggs consumed in this country are produced: by chickens living in small cages, fed antibiotic-laced feed, and deprived of the conditions that make a chicken a chicken and an egg an egg.
So regardless of what the state of Missouri allows to pass for an egg, we at Osage Beach Farmers Market have higher standards. All the eggs sold at the market come from poultry raised on pasture, with access to grass and bugs and open air. Those are real eggs. And if you haven’t tried them… we’ll see you on Saturday!