News - April 24, 2014

Cracking an egg

Eggs. You must have eaten some over Easter. Nutritional superfoods, but more than that too. An egg harbours a promise: an embryo creature, a symbol of the return of life. The link with Easter is obvious enough. Fertility in a chalk wrapping.

As the son of a poultry farmer, I always keep a few chickens. When I bought some new chickens for five euros each, my seven-year-old son said, ‘Papa, that’s impossible. It’s got a heart, it’s alive, you can cuddle it and it lays eggs – all that doesn’t fit into 5 euros. That’s much too little!’ A child often understands the value of life better than an adult. A child can still be full of wonder about life.
In a liberal market, the price of an egg is determined by supply and demand, just like the value of a shoe or a car. For those sorts of dead material things, that’s fine, but for a live egg? What is the value of the non-material qualities of an egg? Most eggs destined for consumption are infertile. You could sit on them for three weeks and they still wouldn’t hatch. But some farmers put roosters in with their layer hens, to keep them quieter and for their welfare. And those eggs are fertile. Some people reckon that the nutritional value of a fertilized egg is higher than that of an unfertilized egg. A fertilized egg can pass on life force, while an unfertilized egg cannot. There are also people who say that boiling and eating an egg is really a kind of active abortion. You are taking a potential life. Is this taking pondering the value of an egg too far?

Too much pointless respect for life? Well, it’s food for thought the next time you crack an egg. Or is it me that’s cracked?