Bad Eggs and Good Eggs or just eggs?

In The Undercover Economist Tim Harford wrote about how organic food is used by retailers as a method of price discrimination. They are marked up to a much greater degree than non-organic food because the people who buy them are relatively indifferent to the price.

This can easily be seen from the store locations of organic food sellers Macro Wholefoods. In Sydney they are located in the Eastern suburbs and North Shore, in Melbourne also in the wealthier regions. So at least from the retailers perspective, its a way of getting a better mark up.

Now I’ve always been a little suspicious about some of the claims not just of organic food but food being sold as healthy in general. Its well documented that labels will advertise things that have never had fat in them as say “fat free salt” knowing full well that all salt is fat free. So it was interesting to read about eggs being sold as hormone, anti-biotic and preservative free in the SMH today.

The humble egg is under siege. Take a step back from the free-range versus cage debate and look at all those other labels on your eggs. Antibiotic-free? No hormones? Vitamin enriched? Do they really mean anything?

“With hormones and antibiotics, there is no difference. Every [egg] is the same,” said Anthony Fisk from the Australian Egg Corporation, the egg industry’s peak body.

“There is no difference between eggs in relation to hormones, antibiotics or preservatives. So when they say that, they’re really talking about all eggs … it’s just a way of selling more eggs.”


Macro Wholefoods for example says on its front page of its eggs:

Not only do the chickens freely roam, they are not subjected to growth hormones or fed antibiotics

Which is true. Hormone and anti-biotic free, like all the other eggs on the market.

Research by the Australian Food and Grocery Council found that misconceptions about what went into animal diets was widespread.

One such myth that seems to be widely accepted is that growth hormones are used in the production of chicken. The AFGC’s survey found that 80 per cent of the population believed this to be the case.

“I think it’s one of those historical things, they haven’t had hormones in chickens for the last 40 years and yet they still think they are there and they worry about them affecting the growth of their children and of course it’s completely wrong,” Mr Roberts said.

However I should note that antibiotics are fed to these chickens, its just that you can’t detect traces of it in the meat.

Generally I buy barn laid eggs. I do object to chickens being kept in small cages but by and large I find that free range eggs can have an overpowering flavour. When I was a child we kept chickens that would have qualified as free range and they never tasted strong like that. So although I have no evidence that they do, I have always wondered if the strong flavour on the free range eggs is due to a different diet to make them seem richer and different. Certainly I’m convinced that they’ll try anything to get you to buy stuff particularly anything they can put a big mark up on.

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9 Responses to Bad Eggs and Good Eggs or just eggs?

  1. yobbo says:

    The organic good industry is just a giant scam perpetrated on stupid people who used to be hippies, or wished they were born early enough to have been hippies.

    It’s right up there with Homeopathy in that it’s a great way to waste money and feel good about yourself, but at least it probably won’t hurt you anywhere except in the back pocket.

    I’ll personally take good old chemically grown produce any day, because I know I’m not going to bite into it and find worms or insect larvae, and I’ll save myself 80% on the price.

    I automatically assume anyone I see inside an organic food store or a place like “Body Shop” to be an unsalvageable moron. That probably makes me a bigot but I can’t help it.

  2. steve – maybe you have just gotten away from being used to the “stronger” taste of Free Range eggs. I used to eat rabbit and mutton (and kill it myself) in my younger years now I find the taste too strong and gamey. When I think of it probably everything I ate on the farm when I was young was “organic”, if you don’t count a bit of super, potash and DDT.

    My favourite story is from a years ago when I was possibly what yob would call a hippy. ( I wasn’t really but its a long explanation). We had a local food co-op where say 10 families / households banded together to take it in turns to go to the big wholesale market to buy vegies each week at 5 am. One member who I teamed up with occassionally insisted on organic whenever possible. I’ve seen her ask a seller “Got any organic”, whereby he said “yes” turned to another identical bag and grabbed the vegies. Same lot as the rest of his truck. I also saw the local organic shop guy at the same market a few times.

    Despite my cynicism I like to avoid a lot of the meat that is pumped with steroids and antibiotics if I can.

  3. there’s nothing wrong with a bit of cynicism, I’ve got it in spades, but the point of organic produce is not just the fact that you’re saving yourself from a bunch of chemicals, you’re saving the environment you live in. it’s about sustainability of the ecosystem apon which we all rely. I don’t think that sounds particularly hippy, I think it sounds more like the willingness to not f*ck the planet up more than it already is.

    witness the problems up in sugar cane country, QLD and northern NSW. the amount of chemicals that run off the cane farms and into the ocean is affecting the Great Barier Reef. they also don’t make for sustainable farming when you need increasing amounts of chemicals due to resistance. that’s two problems to deal with.

    interestingly, some of the ‘traditional’ farmers have looked at ‘organic’ farming and adapted a method of water retention which is having a good effect. actually, when I think about it, it’s a Permaculture method, but that walks hand-in-hand with organic practices.

    by hilling along their waterways, planting more grasses and wetland-type species along the drainage ways which lead to rivers and then the ocean, not only are they stopping as much water leaving their property (a bonus to them), they’re stopping the amount of chemicals leaving their property (a bonus to the reef). hopefully that’ll also mean increased production and the need for less chemicals in the first place.

  4. ps forgot to add that cane farming uses vast amounts of water, like wheat, corn, and cotton. most of our popular crops are greedy for water, and that’s something that Australia has to look at in addition to using more savvy ways of farming.

  5. yobbo says:

    Hello, I’m a wheat farmer and we use no water except that which falls from the sky. Please stop peddling lies about farmers if at all possible.

    Claiming organic farming to be environmentally friendly is ridiculous, because organic produce requires more land to grow it than chemically-grown produce. And more land means more deforestation, less remaining natural ecosystems and more erosion.

    Depending on the kind of crop you are growing, chemically grown crops yield 300-1000% more than organic crops, which means you only need 1/3 to 1/10th of the amount of land to grow the same amount of food.

    If all produce grown was organic, then Paul Ehrlich’s mass starvation predictions would have come true many years ago.

  6. Steve says:

    With regard to cane farming its no conincidence that industries such as sugar cane that attract the highest subsidies are also amongst the highest users of fertilizers and pesticides etc and cause the most environmental damage. Subsidies encourage marginal activities like high fertilizer use and overstocking causing land degradation.

    A point made in this paper, that cutting subsidies in the 80′s in New Zealand decreased fertilizer use, erosion and encouraged reforestation. A point free market advocates should make more strongly.

  7. Steve says:

    Yobbo, I thought you were a professional poker player?

  8. Sacha says:

    Maybe the gambling supports the farming?

  9. yobbo says:

    Ok let me rephrase – my parents and brother are wheat farmers. I grew up on a wheat farm and the rest of my family still live on a wheat farm.

    I spent 20 years there so I sometimes forget that I don’t do it any more ;)

    Our farm has been in our family for over 100 years – and in that time we have never used any kind of irrigation – and neither do 95% of Australian wheat farmers.

    The only water used on our farm is from our own (very small) dams which we dug ourselves and is used for providing water for livestock to drink (and growing Yabbies).

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