From the outside, one egg may look just like another. Whether it came from a hen that was free to roam in pastures and fed organic feed or a diseased hen cramped into a cage, from the surface most eggs seem to bear the same story.
Eggs produced in the United States can come from either of these two examples. However, those that come from conventional, factory-farmed hens are saddled with greater ecological ramifications than their organic counterparts. Farming eggs organically effectively reduces the pollution and environmental degradation of the egg industry.
Many organic egg companies market customers to appeal to their ethical interests of improving hen welfare. Only a fraction of Americans buys organic eggs, and even fewer do so because of motivation to protect the environment.
Educating consumers about organic practices would enlighten many people on how and why organic egg farms aim to protect the planet and why they should eat organic eggs. Through education, Americans would be equipped with the knowledge to make the switch to buy organic eggs and reduce the ecological footprint of their diet.
Of the 374 million egg-laying hens raised in the U.S., the majority spend their entirety in warehouse-like factory farms devoid of natural light and rife with disease. Besides the horrid conditions these chickens endure, these large-scale productions vitiate the environment.
The most poignant source of degradation can be linked back to hen feed; hens are traditionally fed a mixture of corn and soybeans, crops that conventionally require large amounts of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, escape into the atmosphere as a result, further reinforcing the greenhouse effect and exacerbating climate change. Researchers at the University of Oviedo concluded that conventionally producing the ingredients in feed is the most deleterious component of egg production to environmental conditions such as land occupation, climate change, and the destruction of the ozone layer.
The other source of environmental contamination results from the rampant use of antibiotics in egg-laying hens. Overcrowding engenders disease in factory farms. To deal with this issue, conventional egg producers administer antibiotics to hens via their feed and/or water, with much of it leaching into soil and watersheds.
Most detrimental to the biosphere is the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A 2009 study published in the scientific journal Environmental Pollution found that the greatest impact of antibiotic use in livestock could affect the very foundation of food webs, disrupting the activity of microbiota responsible for recycling nutrients and breaking down detritus.
Producing eggs organically, and therefore responsible, must be the solution to truncate these two main point sources of pollution from the egg industry. Regulations for organic productions are solely dictated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and are tailored specifically to each agricultural industry. For egg productions to be considered organic by the USDA, producers must satisfy three requirements: hens must not be kept in cages, there must not be any antibiotics or hormones given to hens, and all feed for hens must be produced organically without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
The organic movement has certainly taken off in many economies around the world; sales of organic food products in the U.S. alone are increasing 20 percent each year. However, only about 5 percent of egg productions in the U.S. (accounting for a meager 15.6 million laying hens) follow organic guidelines. Why does the egg industry in North America lag behind in demand for organic products?
A lack of education regarding the ecological benefits of buying organic eggs is the main barrier to the organic egg industry. For example, society is blatantly cognizant of how fossil fuels negatively impact the environment, but Americans barely know how their diet is just as harmful and how it too contributes to climate change.
To educate people on the positive impacts of eating organic eggs, an accredited environmental organization, such as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), must use its social and economic power to enact change.
In only 20 years, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has proven itself a leader in educating citizens about immediate threats to the planet and its inhabitants due to unsustainable human activity. It has awarded over $80 million to more than 200 different projects, earning an impressive rank among environmental groups. Of the foundation’s six focus areas, climate change is among the most pressing. LDF serves as a perfect icon to publicly promote organic egg farming because this mode of production embodies the organization’s fundamental goal of slowing climate change.
Typically, LDF funds private projects that carry out environmental-protection agendas autonomously. However, I believe that the foundation itself carries gravity when trying to convince the public to support organic practices; with Leonardo DiCaprio spearheading the foundation, LDF holds a degree of familiarity and credibility unique to other environmental organizations.
A Taiwanese study proved that, by having a celebrity approve of a product, consumers are more likely to remember the product, whether they are a fan of the celebrity or not. Therefore, by having Leonardo DiCaprio as the popular founder of an environmental organization justifying the consumption of organic eggs, the general public will be more likely to perceive and evaluate the advantages of organic over conventional egg practices.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation should use television as a mainstream and popularized platform to convey the positive message of organic egg farming. This media outlet is easily accessible, with the power to reach an audience not necessarily familiar with facts about organic egg farming.
With a mass amount of activism featuring DiCaprio the campaign is likely to draw the attention of other social platforms like Variety, Oceana, and Rolling Stone, that will further broadcast the message to millions across America.
By seeing DiCaprio discuss the benefits of buying organic eggs, Americans will be more likely to think twice the next time they pick up cheaply-, irresponsibly-, and conventionally-produced eggs at the grocery store.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.