In the middle of the most comprehensive assembly of sophisticated equipment and installations in a single venue, the Dutch Poultry History Society organized a display of artifacts from the inception of the poultry industry. The collection was presented in the EGGS! pavilion at the 2010 VIV and attracted a considerable amount of attention amid 500cph graders and breakers, robotic egg handling installations and computerized traceability systems.

Sometimes it is instructive to see how eggs were produced and handled many generations ago when consumption was lower, labor was less expensive but product was proportionally higher in cost. Despite the inclinations of “purists” we cannot afford to operate free-range farms and reduce egg production to a family enterprise. We need to supply a growing world population and provide an economical and inexpensive food product conforming to the highest standards of safety.

It is true that there is a niche market for the affluent with sufficient disposable income to indulge their desires for the bucolic. Nostalgia is expensive and free-range and organic eggs are not necessarily either safer or more nutritious. Present demand is able to support a limited number of free-range operations in the U.S. and possibly only a fraction of a percent of our national production. For the remainder, considerations such as sustainability, return on investment, profit over the long term and logistics dictate intensive production.

Still and all it is somewhat comforting to feel and look at artifacts from a bygone era and reflect on how far we have progressed from an earlier era.