What the cluck?

Posted by Anita on 11.01.08 2:36 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**Last year, when I discovered — after reading Bonnie Powell’s excellent post — that the Judy’s Family Farm eggs I’d been buying at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market were the product of an intensive factory operation called Petaluma Farm, I was pretty pissed.

I first blamed CUESA, the market’s organizers, for allowing me to be duped. But soon I realized the real culprit was my own ignorance, and I directed my anger where it properly belonged. It was foolish, after all, to expect that all food sold at the Ferry Plaza market would meet some rudimentary ethical standard and that the products would be sold by, you know, actual small farmers. I really should have wondered how Judy’s managed to sell their eggs for a third of the price of Marin Sun or Eatwell, but I was blinded by the almighty bargain.

My frustration at having been deceived spurred me to pay closer attention to how the food — especially the eggs, dairy, and meat — we buy at the market is really grown. I spent the better part of 6 months asking a lot of questions, and I am sure some farmers got pretty sick of me. But when all was said and done, I was pleased to realize — with the exception of this one major blip in the egg department — that the Ferry Plaza was full of real farmers whose animal-care practices I can support in good conscience.

But now, with the attention CUESA has given Petaluma Farm as part of their coverage of Proposition 2 — the California initiative that would require all caged and crated animals the exceedingly modest consideration of being able to stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs — I feel I really must speak up and question their motives as an organization.

To put it in perspective: I realize that, as recently as last year, there weren’t enough pastured eggs to meet demand. Egg aficionados lined up before the market opened, and latecomers (or even on-timers) were often heard sighing over how they’d been beaten to the punch yet again. I’d like to think that the decision to permit this…. shall we say “less-than-ideal” vendor was a matter of filling in the gaps; local and quasi-free-range eggs are better than nothing. But now that Marin Sun, Eatwell, Marin Roots, and Soul Food offer a steady supply of pastured, humane egg options, I’m shocked that CUESA continues to allow large-scale, factory producers to sell at the Ferry Plaza market. There’s no excuse left that I can find.

But the thing that really sticks in my craw is that CUESA offered the bully pulpit of a prime feature spot in their weekly newsletter to the specious anti-Prop 2 arguments of Petaluma Farm’s Steve Mahr.

Mahr’s got a right to his opinions, and (for now at least) the legal freedom to cram as many laying hens into confinement as he sees fit. I’m glad to learn that he raises at least some fraction of his hens in a cage-free environment. But the hypocrisy of passing off his blatantly industrial product as the sustainable and humane gleanings of some idyllic family farm needs to be called out. And I’m absolutely furious that CUESA is letting it pass.

Mahr claims in the CUESA story that, “I will not be in business if Prop 2 passes.” To which I say: “It’s no worse than you deserve, you greenwashing jive-turkey.” At least the eggs sold at Safeway aren’t pretending to be anything other than the inhumane, factory-produced crap you’d expect.

Of course, pastured eggs are still a luxury that many shoppers can’t afford. But not everyone has room in their weekly food budget for pastured beef, either, and yet you don’t see CAFO meat at the Ferry Plaza. If CUESA is going to claim that one of the 10 reason to shop to shop at their farmers market is “to promote the humane treatment of animals … who have been spared the cramped and unnatural living conditions of so many of their brethren,” then that’s what should be offered, period. And they need to get on the bus and support Prop 2 without any ifs, ands, or buts.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Pastured Eggs at the Ferry Plaza
Eatwell Farm
Nigel & Frances Walker
5835 Sievers Road
Dixon, CA 95620

Marin Sun Farms
David & Julie Evans
10905 Highway 1
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


Soul Food Farm (at the Prather Ranch store)
Alexis & Eric Koefoed
6046 Pleasants Valley Road
Vacaville, CA 95688

Marin Roots Farm
Jesse Kuhn
PO Box 74, Petaluma, CA 94952

More information about Proposition 2
Yes on Prop 2 official site
Michael Bauer (SF Chronicle)
Los Angeles Times (op-ed)
New York Times (endorsement)
Grist Environmental News
Oprah Winfrey Show
The Ethicurean

farmers markets, farms & farmers, locavore, other stuff



Comment by Genie

Great post, Anita. You would hear any bullets fired across the transom from me on this one — I’m very supportive of your position…and the proposition.

Posted on 11.01.08 at 2:39PM

Comment by Jennifer Jeffrey

Nicely stated, Anita. I’m in total agreement with you on this. I’m all for choices, but the Ferry Plaza has a certain standard to maintain, and should be a thought leader in areas such as this.

Shame on CUESA for not taking a stand on this very important issue.

Posted on 11.01.08 at 3:07PM

Comment by Tea

Awesome title, great post. I’m shocked as well about the newsletter…

Posted on 11.01.08 at 3:16PM

Comment by Brett

What a great post, Anita! I commend and support your view. Yes on 2!

Posted on 11.01.08 at 3:44PM

Comment by cookiecrumb


What did CUESA say to you? Didn’t you contact them about this hen-ous practice?

Posted on 11.01.08 at 5:35PM

Comment by Laura

Nice post – I completely agree with everything you said. If we’re lucky they’ll be out of business soon…

Posted on 11.01.08 at 5:47PM

Comment by Anita

Thanks, all.

Cookie, I emailed them as soon as I got the newsletter, and didn’t hear back. (Which I didn’t really expect, at the end of the week and given they’re a largely volunteer group.)

Posted on 11.01.08 at 11:15PM

Comment by robin @ caviar and codfish

Oh, this post really simmered my sauce! I live in a country bubble where it’s practically hard to find eggs that aren’t hatched in someone’s backyard farm – I forget how hard it is to cut through the bullcrap at most markets and such. Good for you for putting them out there, Anita, and for promoting the good guys.

Posted on 11.02.08 at 12:20PM

Comment by Michael Procopio

I’m right there with you, girl.

Well said.

Posted on 11.02.08 at 10:48PM

Comment by Jennywenny

Thanks for mentioning this, I’m pretty sure many of the producers at the san diego farmers markets are battery or barn eggs, and its really hard to work out which is which. I asked one of the stallholders and she seemed very honest, so I’ve hopefully found some decent eggs now…

Posted on 11.03.08 at 1:28PM

Comment by Mo

I totally agree with you on this issue, and I also am fiercely for Prop 2. Yet, I did enjoy the contrast that the newsletter showed between Steve Mahr of Petaluma Farms and Nigel Walker of Eatwell. I enjoyed reading their statements because it showed such a clear difference between a farmer who actually cares about his animals and one who doesn’t. As you say, Mahr claimed that he wouldn’t be in business if Prop 2 passes; but, how can that be if Eatwell, Marin Sun Farms and others are in business and offer much more humane (cage-free) practices? I think his true colors were shown (perhaps unintentionally) through the article.

Posted on 11.04.08 at 2:41PM

Comment by CUESA


Thank you for your response. We know you are a strong supporter of the farmers’ market and we take your comments seriously. Last week’s e-letter was one we thought long and hard about. Our strategy, on this proposition as well as other political issues, is to provide education, but refrain from taking an official position. By allowing our egg sellers to voice their own perspectives, we think the e-letter highlighted some of the complexities, disagreements, and compelling arguments around the proposition, so that our readers and shoppers could make their own informed voting (and shopping) decisions.

Beyond the e-letter itself, you’ve addressed Petaluma Farms’ role in our market. Sustainability is as important to our shoppers as it is to us, and we’re in the early phases of an in-depth process that we hope, over time, will make the market even more environmentally sound, humane, socially just, and economically viable for small-scale farmers than it is today. CUESA has recently begun this process by spelling out a set of guiding principles that will shape the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in the years to come.

As you are no doubt aware, genuine systematic change happens gradually. Our vendors are in different places on the sustainability spectrum and CUESA aims to do whatever we can to support them along the way. One initial step we’ve taken is to offer our sellers scholarships to learning and community-building opportunities such as the annual Ecological Farming Conference and the Small Farm Conference. In the mean time, we hope our market shoppers will take the time to read the seller profiles we’ve posted at each stall (and on our website) and make educated choices accordingly.

We count on thoughtful, well-informed shoppers like you to demand sustainable food, and to help our market maintain a high level of integrity. We welcome your feedback at any time.

The CUESA Team

Posted on 11.05.08 at 11:51AM

Comment by Chez US

Great post! I, too, have been ignorant with regards to this – I have been buying Petaluma eggs; but, will no longer! Thank you for opening my eyes!

Posted on 11.05.08 at 12:07PM

Comment by Stephanie - Wasabimon

I am completely and utterly appalled. I mean, WTF, seriously CUESA? I’m reeling from this news (as well as my own stupid ignorance).

Posted on 12.02.09 at 7:33PM

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