Last night Michael Pollan appreared on CNN to speak with Sajay Gupta about the massive egg recall currently spiraling through 22 states (and growing) according to the Centers for Disease Control. Pollan began by talking about the food industry's divide and conquer tactics regarding monitoriing the food industry, with the USDA responsible for regulating poultry and pasteurized (or liquid) eggs and the Food and Drug Administation (FDA) responsible for fresh "shell" eggs, the kind you crack open on a hot skillet.
According to Pollan, the current convoluted U.S. food safety regime has been created through intentional design. "Our food industry has fought tooth and nail to keep power divided. And power divided is never strong," said Polan
As the author of The Ominivore's Dilemma and America's reigning food guru, Pollan finished his all too brief CNN appearance by discussing his personal preference for eggs, which happen to come from pasture-raised chickens allowed to roam on grass, the type of eggs preferred by Food Democracy Now! as well.
Noting the different options that people have regarding eggs in the U.S., "they can buy factory, cage-free organic and they're going to pay accordingly" Gupta asked Pollan "Is worth it to pay more? Are you getting a healthier product"
"I buy eggs, I eat eggs and I buy them whenever I can at the farmers market. And I know how those eggs are raised. They're raised on grass. Those animals live outdoors. They're in very small flocks. They're in fact raised in much the same way as eggs were raised in the days before we had to worry about salmonella, which isn't really that long ago," said Pollan
"The changes in egg production really date to the 1970s and 1980s. Before that we didn't have a salmonella problem. We also didn't raise chickens, you know, 10 to a cage and a million to a henhouse. So there are options. Yes they cost more. Industrial, conventional eggs only cost ¢13 a piece. The eggs I buy cost about ¢50 a piece. I tend to think that's worth it. Now 2 eggs for a $1 makes a very nice meal. And it's important I think that we support a kind of agriculture that can assure us that they're treating animals well and minimizing the risk.
"Cheap food is wonderful. We all like cheap food. But we have to understand that when we're spending billions to deal with the salmonella outbreak, it really isn't as cheap as it seems"
Here at Food Democracy Now!, we couldn't agree more, which reminds me why I'm always happy to wake up in the morning and eat fresh eggs from two local farmers here in Iowa. And while we can't begrudge Pollan for paying as little as ¢50 an egg in Berkeley, California, I can brag that my local Iowa eggs cost me slightly less, which reminds me that the local food movement is more than about food miles, and just like real estate about location, location, location.