Over the Christmas holiday I had the opportunity to visit family in Colombia. There I watched the entire city of Medellin erupt after the Atlético Nacional fútbol team’s victory, learned how to salsa under a mango tree, and ate fresh mangos straight from that same tree on Christmas morning.
Upon returning home, however, what stuck with me most were the eggs. Every egg I cracked while staying in the Colombian countryside contained within it a rich, golden yolk. Back in the U.S., I immediately noticed that every store-bought egg revealed a (dare I say “lame”?) pale-yellow yolk. This yolk color discrepancy led me to question the nutritional value of the factory-farmed eggs most Americans consume here in the U.S. According to a recent study conducted by Pennsylvania State University, pastured eggs contain higher levels of vitamins A, D and E; beta-carotene; and more omega-3 fatty acids due to their diet being high in greens. Factory-raised chickens, on the other hand, tend to be fed a diet of corn and grains, which leads to lower levels of nutrients and paler yolk pigmentation.
Anna Friedman, who has spearheaded recent dialogue about chicken legalization in Forest Park, explains how chicken ownership is a direct response to the modern disconnect between what we put in our mouths and where it comes from. Her involvement in the issue started from a personal desire to own chickens.
“I am a local-foods advocate, which includes growing and raising as much food as I can for myself. I’ve long wanted to add egg production to my vegetable gardening, especially since chickens benefit vegetable gardening by keeping pests down,” Friedman explained.
Chicken ownership has benefits not only for residents, she said, but for the village itself. As environmental issues are currently a global concern, “allowing chickens would give Forest Park some free positive press and help paint the town as progressive and green-minded,” she said. In a time where sustainable living is not only urgent but also trendy, Forest Park has the opportunity to attract residents with a desire to live in an ecologically-conscious community where green-living is supported.
Legalization of chicken ownership would add Forest Park to a list of suburbs, including Berwyn, Oak Park and Brookfield, all of which allow poultry. However, chicken ownership would be nothing new to Forest Park, as the village itself was once home to a farm where chickens roosted. In fact, the home of Proviso District 209 school board member Claudia Medina was at one point the central village farm and was filled with goats, sheep and chickens.
Fewer and fewer people know where their food comes from. For all I know, Twinkies are made from Mars dust and dropped into supermarkets by storks. The modern age of fast food encompasses not only McDonald’s but also grocery stores (think of the time it takes to buy a zucchini, compared to the time it takes to grow one).
Friedman explained the way in which legalized chicken ownership has the potential to educate future generations about health and to create more sustainable food systems: “[Chickens] are a great way for kids to learn where their food comes from.”
And with Kentucky Fried Chicken’s recent release of fried chicken-flavored nail polish — apocalyptic sign, anyone? — the importance of educating children on the source of their food seems urgent.
And that is no yoke.