In this eight-minute video from Nutrition Facts, consumerist collusion between the USDA and the egg industry are revealed via documents sourced through the Freedom of Information Act. Warning egg producers against the illegal use of false or misleading advertising, the USDA repeatedly advises substitution for the words "safe", "healthy", and "nutritious":
It is no surprise that egg yolks are high in cholesterol, and that eggs are calorie bombs given that their evolutionary purpose is to feed a growing embryo. It is also no surprise that those with a vested financial interest in the production of eggs would seek to ameliorate any negative connotation with their brand or product. What is surprising is the level of self-awareness these companies seem to have about the atrocities they're committing, not only with regard to the health of the humans consuming eggs but also the treatment of the hens to whom they owe their livelihood. What's also surprising is that taxpayers are helping foot the bill for their own manipulation.
These documents between the USDA and egg companies demonstrate that the federal government has a hand in shaping public perception, re-framing words ("healthy" is now "nutritionally-dense"; "safe" is now "fresh") in what I can only describe as a blatant attempt to pull the wool over our eyes. What's in it for them? What is the financial or moral hook on which the USDA is hanging its cap? Surely fielding such questions and offering alternative verbiage carries a cost to the USDA, an organization so woefully understaffed that poultry farm inspections were given over to farm employees in 2014 due to nationwide USDA inspector shortages.
Denial is a powerful thing, and cognitive dissonance can only be stomached for so long. With these ideas in mind, I had wrongfully assumed that industrial agriculturalists as a whole had all but gone numb to the idea of psychological nuance, patting themselves on the back for a bottom line honestly achieved through good ol' fashioned farm work. Sure you gotta make the cartoon chicken look happy and the farm in the background blood-free. Consumerists can get "overwhelmed" otherwise... but to have the blatant suggestion that advertising should not depict scenes that are "too industrial"--battery cages, large warehouses filled with eggs, machinery, etc.--demonstrates that their willingness to manipulate the psyche of the consumer precedes their concern with demonstrating sterility and mechanized efficiency, reducing hens to units on a Henry Ford production line.
Wow. The fact that these companies are still having to mitigate consumer feelings for the hen after all that commodification and utilitarian production speaks volumes to the innate strength of empathy in avian-human connection. I guess that's the silver lining here. Bottom line, egg consumption can lead to heart disease, and perhaps even worse, heart dis-ease: that achy feeling that creeps in when empathy is swallowed by dissociation.
This blog post is re-published with the permission of Elizbeth M. Burton-Crow, Ph.D.
Egg-Blog contributor: Elizabeth M. Burton-Crow, Ph.D. currently works at the Depth Psychology Program, Pacifica Graduate Institute. Elizabeth does research in Philosophy of Science, Ecopsychology, and Trans-species Ethics. Her current project is 'Poultry, Parrots, and People: Exploring Psyche Through the Lens of Avian Captivity'. Dr. Crow is also a facuity member of The Kerulos Center for Nonviolence