USDA to Revoke Organic Animal Welfare Rule

The video above shows what organic egg production looks like at one Oregon factory farm. Crowded into closed-in barns, with "outside access" limited to a roofed-in, screened, cement-floored patio, with panels preventing the chickens from even seeing outside, is not what people imagine when they see the words "cage free" on the carton.

And it's about to get a lot worse unless you act now.

The demand from consumers for organic products has caused that segment of the grocery industry to explode. It's caught the attention of large agribusiness, which has been seeing its portion of the market starting to decline.

A new rule, carefully developed over the last decade, setting consistent and humane animal welfare standards for organic production, was about to go into effect when the current administration delayed its implementation. Over the holidays, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced he was going to completely withdraw the new rule from consideration, a step that corporate agribusiness has been pushing for.

The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is accepting comments on its decision through Wednesday, January 17, so action is needed immediately. The Center for Food Safety has provided a simple form to submit a comment on this rule. It may sound alarmist, but the integrity of the organic label, including our health, and that of our communities and the environment, is at stake. I sincerely hope you consider signing it.

My New Superpower: Hard-boiling Fresh Eggs!

cognitive dissonance: the discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions. In a state of dissonance, people may sometimes feel "disequilibrium": frustration, hunger, dread, guilt, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, etc.

This is the perfect definition of my state of mind at this time of year, though my situation is probably not what psychologists were considering when they came up with the term. To wit: I love farm fresh eggs, whether purchased at the farmers' market or my favorite independent farmer, with their pastel green, beige, brown, dark brown or even bronze shades and variously speckled or, as my 3-year-old nephew says, "sparkly" shells. (I let him pick out his own eggs for scrambling—he always chooses the sparkliest.)

The problem comes when I need to hard-boil them for potato salad or, worst, for deviled eggs where the solid whites need to be pristine holders for the fluff of yolk that sits in their convex cups. The magic of the preparation dims substantially if the whites look more like 4-wheel-drive tire treads, and I've struggled with various techniques to make these fresh eggs easier to peel. I've even gone so far as to buy store-bought eggs in a desperate moment, knowing that they're likely at least a month old and the membrane surrounding the white has started to break down, releasing its sticky hold on the shell.

Some research gave me a new, and even deadly, superpower. With it I can now hard boil the freshest of fresh eggs and they'll peel like a dream, practically falling off the egg with the slightest of tugs. I'm sharing it with you so that your summer can be full of the loveliness of those dreamy yolks and pristine whites. But, like all superpowers, you must promise to use it only for good.

Hard-Boiled Fresh Eggs

  1. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature. This will reduce cracking when submerging them in boiling water.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat.
  3. Slowly lower the eggs into the boiling water.
  4. When boiling resumes, set timer for 15 min. and reduce heat to keep at a low boil.
  5. When timer goes off, drain eggs and submerge in ice bath until chilled, then peel.

Get my recipes for Spanish-style Deviled Eggs and Curried Mustard Deviled Eggs.