We’ve always bought free-range poultry and eggs, both for ethical/environmental reasons, and because it tastes better (set me loose with a grill and a pile of Rocky Range legs and thighs and your belly will be a happy place by night’s end). But the cover story in this week’s East Bay Express casts a shadow on the growing movement to get battery-caged poultry and eggs out of stores. Turns out the best way to encourage the spread of avian flu is to let birds wander around outside as nature intended. Containing a potential avian flu epidemic means keeping birds strictly confined.
Factory farming may be cruel to animals and environmentally ugly, but weighed against the prospect of millions of human deaths, the free-range farming movement suddenly faces a painful dilemma. Frickin’ reality.
Of course, one can imagine ways to confine chickens indoors without cooping them up in battery cages. It’s harder to imagine factory farmers making that happen without financial incentives.