48. Egg on Your Facebook (10/2011)

by brettthevet

Feathered friends online also run the risk of becoming a statistic rather than something to crow about. Tainted transactions make awkward meal of the simplest sacrifices.

At the breakfast celebration a unanimous vote of twenty five delighted hands hover in a frozen wave of anticipation, faces drooling at the gastrological connotations of a ‘sunny side up’ choice. A silver wedding anniversary figure demonstrating unflustered support for the expanding factories that incarcerate the estimated 18 million laying hens in South Africa crammed even now into row upon row of cages for their 265 day lives of ‘productivity’. A quarter century vote condoning yolks of cruelty without a moment’s consideration. One, two, three embryos plus more where those came from, nestled among the charred rashers of pig flesh. Two dirty dozen and one cheers for battery hens that supply constant demand for their fragile reproductive treasures, laboured over daily and stolen for frying, baking, scrambling, cracking, cracked – crackpot maybe but this represents serious, illegal cruelty to animals for the sake of profit over nutrition, relished on a vast unchallenged scale over easy.

The same hands rear fancy fowl favourites in the comfort of their own homes wincing at the mere suggestion of pet poultry for the pot, while gnawing on a Kentucky Fried Cruelty drumstick. A free range token gesture appears to placate half-baked protests aimed at commercial hen house horrors.

The story is a familiar one: macerated male chicks; hens three to a foolscap cage excruciatingly debeaked and detoed to prevent cannibalism mania notwithstanding; artificial light forcing increased production; no facility for normal behaviour like perching, preening, or dust bathing; avian flu viruses poised to wipe out the whole lot and the humans too for their part in the barbarism.

Too much of a bad thing doesn’t stop at the egg, which came first in high cholesterol stakes with uncertain detrimental effects on heart and circulatory system health, links to diabetes, and high incidence of food allergies in infants. The effects of antibiotics, hormones, and environmental degradation from the industry are also well documented.

The challenge and solution is to personally demand unequivocally free-range eggs. This accessible and powerful gesture to support sustainable and humane farming is specific and effective. And if the verity of the claim is too vague to ascertain then, one step further, eggs can be conveniently omitted altogether. The alternatives that do the same job cheaper without the cruelty while improving taste and texture are the following:

Firstly you need to determine why your recipe calls for eggs.

If it is for leavening one of the following can be used to replace each good egg:
• ¼ cup of soft parboiled tofu
• ¼ cup apple sauce
• One mashed ripe banana
• 3T pureed dried fruit
• 1T Ground flax seed + 3T water.
The finished product will be light and fluffy.

If it is for binding:
• 2 T cornstarch + 2T water
• 2T potato starch + 2T water
• 2T instant mashed potatoes
• 2t baking powder + 2T water + 1T oil.
The finished product will be dense and thick.
• In custards and quiches each egg can be replaced with ¼ cup soft pureed tofu.
• To replace just egg white use plain agar powder (1T + 1T water whipped chilled then whipped again).

It is not difficult to implement these substitutes with a little imagination once one has taken the decision not to buy into the rotten egg business. Removing the yoke of custom and thinking out of the egg box brings light relief from the tyrannical trappings of tradition and whips up conscientious consumer compassion.