Grocery stores are now selling vegetarian eggs.
As I stared at the news in wonder I could hardly process all the thoughts that tumbled through my brain.
What were they made out of? Carrots? Liquefied squash? And if so, how in the world did they manage to get the carrots or squash inside an egg shell? An image of lab coated scientists injecting eggs with syringes hatched in my brain.
This quickly led to the question of what in the world the vegetarian egg shells were made out of and how were they able to make them look and feel just like real egg shells?
It was all too clever and interesting for words.
Is there nothing we can’t adulterate to resemble something familiar? We have soy milk cartons standing shoulder to shoulder with cartons of cow milk and packets of tofu crumble coloured to look like cooked hamburger and now vegetarian eggs right next to the ones laid by chickens. Technology sure is something.
But wait. I was mistaken. Turns out vegetarian eggs aren’t made out of vegetables at all. Instead they are eggs laid by vegetarian chickens. This discovery just opened up a whole new can of worms.
Speaking of which, if you did open a can of worms chickens would eat them. Chickens love worms. They love all kinds of insects too. That’s why they’re always scratching around the farm yard. They’re omnivore’s not just herbivore — which means being a vegetarian is not natural.
And don’t we want natural? We hate the idea of chickens stuffed into their battery cages where they never see the sun or scratch in the dirt. We can’t have it both ways. If a chicken is free ranging around and scratches up a worm, or if a bug happens to come along and land on a blade of grass, the chicken isn’t going to think, “Oh, I better not. I’m not supposed to have any meat. I’m a vegetarian chicken, don’t you know.”
Though sometimes free range just means they’re being raised in a barn that’s so crowded they can barely turn around instead of in a cage so small they can barely turn around.
Or they’re outside, but the outdoor pen is so crowded they can barely move. It’s hard. People want cheap food, and farmers want to actually be able to make a living. Farmers are funny that way. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there are two sides to every story.
But this vegetarian egg thing just kills me. I mean it’s ridiculous. An egg is simply one rooster and 21 incubation days away from being a chicken. No matter what you do to a chicken it will never be a vegetable. I don’t care how many greens you stuff down its gullet or how many worms you snatch from its beak.
If you’re simply looking for eggs laid by happy chickens, your best bet is to find someone who has a small free range flock on their farm and a few extra eggs they are willing to sell you. It’s trendy right now to keep a couple chickens in the city, but I’m not so sure that’s the happiest thing for the chicken.
I think some people were misled by seeing too many episodes of Friends where Chandler and Joey have a duck and a chicken free ranging around their apartment. You can’t house train a chicken. Or a duck. Speaking as a person who has cleaned out more than her share of chicken coops, chicken feces are both nasty and prolific. You’d only need to step on one gluey pile of poop before you would see the need for keeping your cluckers in a cage.
Even if you don’t live in an apartment and are able to keep your chickens in your backyard, you will still need to protect them from dogs, cats and neighbourhood children which would also mean putting them in a cage.
It seems to me that pretty soon the only difference between privately caged chickens and commercially caged chickens is that the commercially caged ones are guaranteed regular feed and water.
However, if you have enough space to build a safe roomy run and an insulated coop, and if you truly do have the time to look after your chickens day in and day out, then you can have your omelettes and enjoy them too. But that still won’t make them vegetarian.
Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org