Words by: Tom Piper
If you noticed a sharp increase in the price of eggs recently, you’re not alone. Across the country prices for “conventional eggs” i.e. those produced at the lowest possible cost and with the greatest possible inhumanity to hens and people, are skyrocketing. Why? Avian Influenza, or bird flu, is the reason. The disease can spread from wild fowl on their spring migration to domestic agricultural operations. And because these birds live in such densely packed, dirty, inhumane environments, the producers have no choice but to destroy the entire population at that operation once they have a single identified infection – that can mean millions of birds on a single “farm” are lost at once. The result is that over 47 million birds have been put to death since the outbreak started, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch on June 18th.
Here’s the point. These cheap agricultural systems are risky and unsustainable. They only work, until they don’t. Then they shift huge costs and externalities to the communities that host them and to the consumers who buy their products.
At Pete & Gerry’s, we are not immune to Bird Flu, nor the need to raise prices at times when our costs increase; but because we farm responsibly year in and year out, our small farms, caring farmers, and humanely raised hens have a far better chance of avoiding this epidemic and other health risks like Salmonella over time. In fact, we’ve never had a single outbreak of either in our history. It costs more for us to farm this way. But it also means we don’t have to raise prices as often, or as sharply, when something goes wrong. We provide a far more sustainable and predictable price by being responsible caring farmers.