No so long ago I had the unique privileged of meeting Glenn and Clint Hickman. They are brothers that run Hickman Family Farms, a massive egg producing company in Arizona. A group of us had gathered with our fearless leader, Kerri from the Humane Society of the United States, to come up with a plan that encourages restaurants to not use eggs from chickens kept in battery cages. I guess the Hickman brothers were a bit nervous (or just curious, who knows) about what it is we might do to jeopardize their business. While you might think that we were throwing eggs at each other (ha, ha!) we actually had a rather civil debate. And it was fascinating!
I was riveted because Glenn Hickman confirmed all my greatest fears about the egg industry. I have read many things about chickens being kept in tiny cages where they can’t spread their wings, being forced to produce eggs in unnatural quantities, and then killed at a young age when they are no longer able to produce the product valued so highly by their owner. Glenn substantiated all this and more. And he continually claims that he “loves his chickens.” Hmmmm … I use the term love a bit differently.
Here’s what else Glenn Hickman taught me …
As in the dairy industry, males are not valued in the egg laying industry. What happens to them is equally as horrible as what happens to baby male cows used for veal. Baby male chickens are fed to a macerator (something like a wood chipper) just hours after they are hatched. They are GROUND UP ALIVE just because they were born male and not female.
The Hickman “barns” in Arizona have about 200,000 chickens in them. Can you imagine? 200,000? To give you some perspective, about 70,000 students attend Arizona State University and it is one of the largest in the country!
Wow, I say to Glenn and Clint. Wow! Is this what you call love? You see I love my dogs and I would never ever put baby boy puppies in a wood chipper. I would never keep my dogs in a cage so small they can’t turn around. If I did put all four in a tiny area for their entire lives and let them shit all over each other, they would indeed kill each other. To prevent that though I would never, ever cut off their teeth without anesthesia. And I would never, ever put them in a “gas truck” when they are two years old just because they couldn’t produce something I could sell to someone else.
You see my dogs don’t produce anything of value to society but they give me uncompromising devotion and constant companionship, they keep my house safe, and they are always good for a hug. That’s it. In return, I let them live a fulfilling happy life as they are meant to. That is what I call “love”.
When I asked Glenn why the chickens can’t be housed in a way that is more comfortable for them, he replied, “It’s economics.”
Glenn filled me in on one other detail that did in fact horrify me. USDA inspection of egg laying facilities is optional. What, I say? Optional? It is optional for farmers to have the USDA inspect their facilities. My friends I ask you … what has your government done for you lately? If they can not ensure food safety, then what the hell are they doing over there in Washington D.C.
If you find any of this information doubtful, take a look for yourself at www.hickmanseggs.com. Clint is featured with Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs. They actually show the inside of a chicken barn, caged chicken and the way in which they have to discard of thousands of pounds of poo every day.
My friends, an egg is not just an egg. We’ve been taught to eat them because they are a cheap source of protein. But think of the suffering another living being has endured just so someone could eat the byproduct of their reproduction cycle for breakfast? Those eggs aren’t looking so delicious after all.