Locally Laid – Why is a Vegan Reviewing a Chicken Book?/ posted in: Reading Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen
on March 1st 2016
Published by Avery
“When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner—that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.”
I laughed when Lucie Amundsen wrote about finding out that one of her first social media followers was a vegan. After all, here I am, a vegan wannabe reading and reviewing her book. To understand why people like me would be interested you have to understand that farm animal welfare is a huge issue. A lot people become vegan because of it.
Animal Welfare on Chicken Farms
On conventional farms chickens are kept in battery cages where they don’t have enough room to stretch their wings. Because of this, a lot of people like to buy eggs that are labeled as cage-free. However, just because they aren’t in cages doesn’t mean the chickens are living a happy life. A lot of farms keep thousands of birds in large barns crammed together on the floor. They aren’t in cages but they may not have much more room either. They may have access to a concrete outside area.
Pasture-raised birds spend part of the day outside on grass. This is the type of farm that Locally Laid is. And no matter how nice of a life the chickens have there comes a time when they are no longer laying. Chickens don’t get a pension plan.
The Amundsens had no farm experience prior to starting a chicken farm so things that I saw as glaring problems they went blissfully into. For example, there was no water in their rented barn. They would be getting water from a garden hose and transporting it to the barn. In winter. In northern Minnesota. Oh, honey, no. I’ve had to do that for a few horses for a few days when there have been barn plumbing issues and it sucks. I can’t even imagine trying to water 1800 chickens that way. They soon realized that this was a major issue.
Another issue was that Lucie was not on board with this venture. The stress on their marriage is covered honestly. Is it fair to ask one spouse to (repeatedly) give up her life and goals for the other spouse’s strange dreams?
The book gets into lots of other hot button food production issues like encouraging local agriculture, the role of mid sized farms, and the difficulties of getting organic certification. Their successes and failures are told with candor and humor. If you have read a lot about food issues or watched any of the documentaries on this then this isn’t going to be anything new to you but it is interesting to see how it plays out on one farm.
The husband is reading this book too. He came running out to me one day and was mock crying with his head on my shoulder. “I just read chapter five!” I couldn’t remember anything sob worthy. “The birds came. Myron’s an asshole!” Oh, yes, Myron. There is a big difference in caring for an individual bird and caring for a large flock where deaths are seen as the cost of doing business. Myron was their supplier of the first flock and he wasn’t as into chicken welfare as they were.
The husband proudly showed me the pasture-raised eggs that he bought at the store too. See, even vegans reading the book and passing it on can help make a difference.