Listening to NPR on my way to work the other day, I heard that Fort Collins, Colo. had passed an ordinance allowing citizens to raise backyard chickens. Since the regulation went into effect about a year ago, 36 households have acquired chicken licenses. Other cities have followed suit in response to people clucking to have a flock of their own. According to The Coloradan, more than 30 U.S. cities passed chicken ordinances in 2008 and 2009, including Cleveland; Durham, N.C.; and Moab, Utah. The chicken craze is likely an outgrowth of the local food movement. More and more people want to know where and how their food is grown and raised. If they can grow and raise food themselves, all the better.
But if the vast majority of people are like me, they don't raise chickens for one reason or another. I have a tiny backyard, and, even more critical, I have a predator-like Jack Russell terrier who thinks chickens are like John Cusack’s character in that wacky '80s flick: Better Off Dead. For me, the next best thing to homegrown is buying eggs that I'm certain were raised right. How can natural products retailers guide me to the good egg? Do I buy organic? Cage free? Omega-3 enriched? Use this primer to prepare your employees for customers' increasingly sophisticated questions on egg types and terms.
On a related note, what do you think of the push by animal rights activists to ban cage-raised eggs? The European Union has already set a 2012 deadline for eliminating battery cages (not enriched) for laying hens. Some predict that if a similar standard is applied in the U.S., it will drive up egg prices by 25 percent and sacrifice safety. What's your take? Are customers willing to pay more for cage-free eggs? Will safety be compromised if cages are forbidden because we'll have to rely on imported eggs?