There is nothing like a natural disaster to showcase the reasons that I subscribe to the New York Times. Their reporting today on the Avian Flu that is destroying commercial egg-production is just stellar.
This piece lays out, unintentionally, some of the things that are normally not public knowledge about the markets for eggs in the US.
Eggs, like corn and soybeans, are natural foods for us humans. We have all enjoyed eggs and corn our entire lives. They are also both, it turns out, the source material for artificial and processed ingredients. Lots of the mysterious and unpronounceable items found on processed food labels come from these natural foods. Of course just because processed foods contain items manufactured from natural ingredients that doesn’t make them health foods.
When you think about the effects on our food chain of avian flu, which has killed 87 million laying hens across the nation already, you probably think of places like McDonald’s breakfasts, or perhaps you think of you favorite bacon and eggs place, but I bet it never crossed your mind that it would be found in so much food.
…eggs are used by grocery chains, restaurants, food service companies and food manufacturers in a wide variety of products, including mayonnaise, ice cream, cookies, muffins, batter for breading and French toast.
And that may or may not be from using whole eggs. There are companies, like Michael Foods, that produce ingredients from eggs that can be used instead of real, perishable eggs. These companies are seeing their egg-based product customers begin to look for even more artificial ingredients to replace the almost natural eggs based products in their recipes.
And on Thursday, Hampton Creek, a small business that makes plant-based egg substitutes, shipped tens of thousands of pounds of its Just Mix powdered egg substitute to General Mills, which uses egg products in things like its Betty Crocker Angel Food Cake Mix and a variety of refrigerated cookie doughs.
You will not be notified when they successfully change their recipe to include something that is almost just like eggs in it’s effect on the foods you buy. If there is to be any notification to you that your favorite processed food muffin has been made even more artificial, it will be in a great big health claim on the label “Contains No Egg Products”. This announcement will be to let you know that your food is now perfectly safe from the possibility of you getting bird flu from eating a totally dead food. There never was any chance of you getting the flu from eating a boxed muffin, but they will know that some of you are very afraid of just about everything, so the ‘no-egg’ health claim will be for the very terrified among us, but it is the only notice that those of us wary of unnatural ingredients in food will get that the recipes have changed in our favorite artificial indulgences.
It’s a shame that all of the billions spent every year by the chicken industry on antibiotics that they put into the flocks’ food supply cannot help in any way against this flu. It is like all of the money pored into the church during the black plagues of the dark ages–never gonna clean up the city so that the rats that carry the plague will go live somewhere else.
They never gave the chickens antibiotics to keep them alive, they always did it because it makes them grow faster on less food. I always could see that. I could also see that keeping so many animals cooped in such close quarters to one another would lead to an apocalyptic disease outbreak, much like the black plague that I just referred to. These things don’t spread like this to isolated populations, but then how do you supply an industry cheaply with products that they use by the millions of pounds every year any other way? We are about to find out.