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June 26, 2008

The Humane, Recession-proof Pantry

Taking lessons from Depression-era kitchens

The Humane Society of the United States

by Karen Louden Allanach

Grocery shopping is getting tougher these days. Applesauce—two for $4. We'll get just one. Pick up an extra can of beans—that we can use. Do we really need those crackers? No, put them back. The cart is not as full as it used to be before we hit our budget. The recession has changed the way we shop.

As a married mother of two children and a beloved cat, I make all of the food purchases and meal decisions that feed my growing family. As an animal advocate, I still take animal welfare into account when making food choices, including buying cage-free eggs rather than battery cage eggs.

While I'm trying to make ends meet, I think about how other people are struggling to feed their families, and where they may be cutting back on the grocery list. It may seem like a tough environment to encourage folks to purchase healthier and more humane food selections that benefit both people and animals, but which also may be more expensive than other foods. But consumers do not have to compromise their compassion for animals in response to tough economic times.

The Great Depression Meets a New Recession

During the Great Depression, people found ways to get by with very little, including whipping up recipes for rice pudding, cakes, biscuits and more without any eggs. Today, as endure a recession, many people are looking for ways to stretch a dollar. Cooking and baking smarter is one way to make that happen.

Learn how a humane diet is also the healthiest with the HSUS' new DVD series Latest in Clinical Nutrition, which features our director of public health and animal agriculture, Michael Greger, M.D.. Dr. Greger offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat and even reverse chronic disease.

How do you eat your eggs? What I discovered is that the only foods I eat which actually require eggs are scrambled eggs—or hard boiled. For all of my baking, I use an egg substitute or replacer, like Ener-G egg replacer. A 16 oz. box of egg replacer, a potato-starch based powder, costs about $6 and can be found at many grocery stores and online. One box of egg replacer equals about 100 eggs, or about 8 dozen, and unlike eggs, it has no cholesterol.

There are many cookbooks with excellent egg-free recipes.

"The Joy of Vegan Baking" is outstanding for familiar favorite desserts. Author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's chocolate cake recipe with chocolate icing has no eggs or even egg substitute, and I dare you to make it and tell me it isn't one of the best you've ever had. Using egg replacer, I've made her moist and delicious peanut-butter cookies with chocolate chips, for my daughter's kindergarten class and on several family occasions, and they are a huge hit.

To paraphrase one of the kids in the neighborhood, speaking to my daughter, "Your mom makes the best cookies ever!" Check out these endless eggless options.

Going Back is Not an Option

I am concerned about our environment for my children and future generations. 

Factory farm waste emits greenhouse gases that have a greater impact on climate change than pollution from transportation. Confined farm animals produce almost 500 million tons of manure each year in the United States. The waste pollutes water and air, and in the process, harms rural communities. This raises the important question of how many farm animals, regardless of whether they're caged or cage-free, we should be raising and killing.

Also, once you know that the life of a battery-caged hen is a life of suffering, why compromise on cruelty?

Packed together in cages, each hen is confined to a space smaller than a sheet of letter-sized paper, and hens are prevented from expressing natural behaviors such as spreading their wings, dustbathing, and foraging. The vast majority of caged hens are kept indoors their entire lives. Nearly 280 million egg-laying hens are kept this way in the U.S. factory-farming industry.

The Three R's

In good and bad economic times, it is always a good time to re-evaluate our diets, to take inventory of our pantry and try to adopt healthier lifestyles. We can all make a difference for our families and the animals by following the "Three R's." Reduce the amount of eggs in your family's diet, Refine your diet by switching to cage-free eggs or Replace eggs in your recipes with so many wonderful substitutes available, and save money!

Karen L. Allanach is associate director of Animals & Religion for The Humane Society of the United States.

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