The Inescapable Egg Recall

There is just no way to get away from the egg recall these days. Top of every newscast, bottom of every talk show, online and in the papers, it's just eggs, eggs, eggs and more eggs.

Like this afternoon. I'm driving into the office and, like the good, soft and pasty liberal that I am, I'm listening to NPR on the radio--some fascinating discussion of melting ice caps or female genital mutilation or ethnic folk dancing or something. And all of a sudden, what does the talking head switch to? Egg recall news. There are now 2000 sick people. The FDA is in a tizzy, trying to explain to everyone that they do not have the power to demand the recall of a cell phone from the Taco Hut lost-and-found, let alone half a billion eggs. No, all they can do is suggest that a voluntary recall might be, you know... a really fucking good idea what with 2000 egg-eating American citizens screaming at their boots and crapping themselves volcanically. The NPR folks are outraged. Or at least as outraged as NPR commentators ever get. Which is not very much.

So I switch stations. More news talk. More egg recall. And I don't want to switch over to one of the music stations because anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely convinced that music's greatness peaked with the recording of "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo in 1983 and that everything that came after that was just a downhill slide into absolute crap.

I make it to the office. The egg recall is in the papers. It's the top of the breaking news feed at But this time, there's actual news (for a change). A culprit has been fingered: it was the feed given to the chickens that caused the salmonella outbreak. But the feed in question? It comes from the same company that was first named in the recall: Wright County Egg. So really, what the news is saying is, "We've found the source of the egg contamination--and it's the same shit we've been talking about for days."

Thing is, this story is never going to end. Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms are still producing eggs every day (though most of them are now going to facilities that make pasteurized liquid egg products). The bad ones are still out there. And this problem--this massive dirtying up of hundreds of millions of eggs--could've only happened within a system where production is so centralized. No matter how much we panic, no matter how much we shout and no matter how many House Dems (like Bart Stupak, from Michigan) demand subcommittee hearings on the safety of our nation's food supply, the basic system is not going to change.

Lots of chickens laying lots of eggs in one place: that's why eggs are so cheap. People like cheap eggs. They don't like salmonella very much, but I suspect that they'd like paying $20 for a dozen eggs a lot less. And since the system is not going to change, this whole thing is just going to keep happening. Since August 20 (the day Hillandale Farms was added to the recall list) the FDA has announced 11 other recalls of products, from bread to pistachios to queso fresco to even more eggs, for completely different reasons.

It's not going to stop until the system is drastically changed. And I'm just beginning to wonder now what, exactly, it will take before someone starts thinking that a little change sounds like a good thing.

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