The Tao of shitty egg economics

Elfpermacl at Elfpermacl at
Thu Oct 22 12:26:55 EDT 1998

Hey, I am only guessing here.  Waterglass MIGHT be an option.  However lets
get back to permaculture a moment and not let the details drive the design.

We have some chickens.  they lay eggs.  If the eggs are cleaned, you lose part
or all of the protective coating.  Part or all doesn't matter, probably,
though most of us try to avoid removing more than we  have to in order to get
the gobs of shit off the eggs.  (For the uniniatated birds, of which chickens
are a subset, have only one rear vent from which all exiting material passes.
How do they get those factory chickens to lay such clean eggs?  Train them to
use toilet paper?)

I'd say that the design is to use eggs promptly where refrigeration is
unavailable or not assured.  Education has a very low environmental cost.  If
people know to use eggs quickly, they will do so.  Producing a suitable amount
of eggs for market means producing an amount that can be absorbed by people
before there we get anywhere close to a health question.  I remember being in
a little village, Otates, population 600, in the Mountains of Veracruz, the
day someone killed a steer.  There were maybe three refrigerators in the whole
town.  In any case, electricity was an erratic phenomenon at best and certain
to fail on holidays when you had the most feast materials to preseve.  Dead
certain.  Bet big on it.

Ok, the guy whose steer is killed has a zillion children, nieces, and nephews.
Since the same families have been in the same town for 400 years, gradually
working up to population 600, the number of related children is way more than
most gringos can imagine.  Each of them gets a dish of beef covered with
cheese cloth (token defense from fly shit) and they trot around town.
EVERYONE knows that the steer was being killed that day and so EVERYONE knows
what is for dinner--beef.  Almost the whole beef got eaten that afternoon.
Women fished out coins from various places and give them to the children who
don't appear to count them but just pocket them.  (If they were counting the
money, they have powers of observation usually attributed to highly trained
spies in fantastic spy movies). Who needs refrigeration.  If there was extra
space inthe three or so refrigerators that were in town, you can be sure that
they had some beef being held for the family inquestion, unless there was a
spat active at the time.  (About 5 percent of the village is in a spat at any
one time, at a guess.)  I swear that they used to wear their money out in that
village, handing it back and forth among themselves, sort of an accounting
system. If you dont have any money, you aren't producing for the village as a
whole.  I put that in the past tense because TV had just gotten to that town
shortly before I came and now money needed to go outside the town to buy crap
advertised by women with gigantic boobs and blond hair (remember this is
Mexico) on TV.  So the local economy was just starting the initial swirl down
the proverbial shitter.

There was design in this economic arrangement, design that would make any
permaculturist proud, though developed long before than ungainly word was
coined.  You didn't produce in excess of need because it would be wasted.  You
supported other individuals in the community and they supported you.  the
money was more likethe accounting in a LETS system than the modern concept of
money--it just kept the infrequent piker from unbalancing the system where
production is shared though produced by private enterprise.  (Try to fit that
one into your collection of economic isms!)  Moreover, the land was
collectively owned but privately managed and the rights to land generally
inheritable, though you had t be present and use it and use it reasonably
well.  Land abuse was no where nearly prevented, as it could have been, but
raise the awareness of the community as a whole and you had a power.  
You see the business about cleaning eggs is economics, not egg technology.  We
h ave to market the eggs so that they are used up, say, in less than a week.
I'm not personally worried about an egg that has been siting around that
long--certainly eggs held way longer never made me sick, nor my children, nor
my present wife, but that was in a temperate climate.  So market the eggs and
educate the people to use them promptly.  No one needed to be told the beef
needs to be used, but most Mexicans keep chickens for more chickens more than
for eggs, in my experience (and from observations to me by Mexicans who had
lived there for 65 years).  So a little egg education can't hurt.

Next, if you have more production than the local market can promptly absorb,
is the value added step.  In the places I've been in Mexico, people are used
to families preparing baked goods for routine use by the community.  Egg-rich
baked goods are a luxury, of course, but so are cookies and the little cakes
that travel door to door under the ubiquitous cheese cloth.  Then there is the
matter of pickled eggs, a really easy and safe way to preserve them long term
that tastes good.  Great to sell to bars and resturants where people come to
eat and drink.  My friend Angeles would surely offer them in her place in

Othewise, I'd stay clear of techy methods that import materials to preserve
the egg.  Somehow the image of eggs packed in wood ash comes to mind--don't
ask me why.  Seeds are preserved that way, but eggs are a rather different
kind of seed.  What is the pH requirement of Samonella?

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since 1982),
Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and annual correspondence
courses via email.  Copyright, 1998, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O. Box 52,
Sparr FL 32192 USA  Internships. YankeePerm at  

We don't have time to rush.

A list by topic of all Yankee Permaculture titles may be found at
Elfin Permaculture programs are listed at the Eastern Permaculture Teachers
assn home page:

More information about the permaculture mailing list