Carbon Footprint of an Egg (Poultry)

Topics: Eggs, Sustainability, Poultry farming Pages: 7 (3088 words) Published: April 3, 2012
Where to Begin: the Chicken or the Egg?

White, round, smooth are picturesque descriptions of an egg. An egg has a simple exterior that is easy to describe. However, this simple egg has a complex ecological footprint that contributes to the destruction of our planet, people, and prosperity. Eggs are essential to every dimension of the earth. An egg is a nutritious source protein and vitamins, triggering the performance of health maintenance in humans. Not only are eggs an exceptional source of nutrients, they are also linked with “preserving memory, and lutein and zeaxanthin, which may protect against vision loss” (“Egg Nutrition & Heart Disease”). Eggs possess intrinsic value that is considered to benefit the planet; eggs are part of the natural ecosystem services that powers all life on the earth. Without egg production, a snowball effect will prompt species extinction, hampering income, and other destructive outcomes. Thus, the importance of eggs in today’s world is revealed through a sense of balance among the ecosystem cycles of the planet. In actuality, the production process of a chicken, to an egg, to a mouth yields unsustainable impacts that contribute to the destruction of the triple bottom line. The process of moving a laying hen’s egg from the coop to a frying pan influences destructive practices ranging from the profit-oriented American who practices industrialized farming techniques to the pollution of our planet’s non-abundant water supply. Every input of egg production affects the final nutritious, commercial good. But, is this process nutritious for the earth? Animal welfare, societal values, the environment, economics, human health, as well as food safety and quality are many of the elements incorporated in a sustainable production system (Mench, Summer, and Rosen-Molina 1). Egg production has a large-sized ecological footprint compared to the small size of an egg. This ecological impact begins at production and peels back layers of unsustainable inputs and outputs as the sequential process advances. The causal relationship of egg production and unsustainable inputs and outputs allows an in-depth look at the root cause of this footprint. In order to initiate a sustainable movement toward an efficient, effective, and healthy egg, we must start at the origin of an egg. Innovative efficiency lies within the real “chicken,” who must execute forward-thinking actions for a sustainable future. The United States is the second largest egg producer in the world (Mante 298). The egg industry in the United States has evolved from small, family farms into huge, factory farms with the goal of fast, high profit and low input costs. These factory farms play a major role in current unsustainable lifestyles due to their intensive agricultural methods. In the United States, the majority of poultry farmers use a method called cage systems. In this system, the laying hens are confined and crammed into injury-prone wire cages leading to an explosion of overcrowding, mortality rates, cannibalism, pollution, and disease (Xin, H., et al.). Farms cram laying hens into the wire cages in order to achieve the industrialized goal of low production costs and high profit. The farmer ignores a chicken’s natural, evolutionary diet and creates a forced diet to operate as a catalyst for production rate. In order to achieve faster, larger, and cheaper results the feed is pumped full of chemicals, antibiotics, as well as “millions of tons of meat and bone meal from post-slaughter animal waste are recycled back into animal feed each year,” (“Feed, Factory Farms Cheap Feed”). Not only does this processed diet affect the health of the chicken, but also consumer’s health. A direct result of additives in the feed is disease-prone hens. Therefore, the diseases acquired from antibiotic resistance combined with the ailments from overcrowding, cannibalism, and injury, are passed from the laying hen to their egg offspring and their wastes. For...

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