Since I hold the job title of editor I suppose it’s only natural that I pay great attention to words and their meaning.
Now that I am a mother, certain words capture my attention immediately. One of these is the word “wholesome”, particularly when it’s used in relation to food that I might feed my daughter. It’s an old-fashioned word and I can’t help but get a mental picture of June Cleaver cooking for the Beaver. If something is “wholesome”, then it must be good for you, right?
This line of thinking is what the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is relying on with a new promotion for its cage-free egg campaign. In mid-February the organization announced celebrity Canadian chef Christine Cushing has partnered with it in an effort to get Canadians to choose cage-free over conventionally raised eggs.
Cushing says in a WSPA release “when I’m cooking, I always start with the very best ingredients. And I know that raising hens in cramped cages can’t produce the best eggs. Cage-free hens have space to move around, spread their wings, and be what they are — healthy, happy chickens, producing healthy, wholesome eggs. To me, it’s a clear and easy choice.”
The Oxford Dictionary defines wholesome as follows: 1) conducive to or suggestive of good health and physical well-being and 2) conducive to or characterized by moral well-being.
In the quote cited, how the word “wholesome” is used infers good health, even though the WSPA really means to infer that “wholesome” is a moral choice.
That’s why I take offense to Cushing’s statement, and I think egg farmers should too.
Eggs are heralded as the “gold standard” for protein and have too many nutritional benefits to list in this small space. With the exception of eggs coming from hens with access to pasture (which alters the fatty acid profile), cage-free and cage eggs are the same nutritionally (in terms of protein, vitamins, minerals, etc.).
When an organization like the WSPA uses a celebrity spokeperson to get its message across we need to take notice. Cushing has a big reach. According to her website, she has cooking shows on both the Food Network and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and is the resident chef on the Marilyn Denis show, a daily talk show on the CTV television network.
If consumers want to make the choice based on morality, that’s their personal choice, but I don’t think they should be made to believe choosing one over the other will effect their health.
It’s known that although consumers, when polled, say they will choose one type of production method over another, when push comes to shove, they often choose the cheaper option. But will they when it’s no longer a moral question but one of health?