Eggsistential threat

When the second world war broke out in 1939, nobody would have imagined that the ministry of food would disappear off the map. Stranger still was the process by which the ministry morphed and started to manage the nation’s food procurement arrangements from a top secret seaside town in Wales. A narrow strip of sea separates Colwyn Bay from the country’s pivotal international port of Liverpool, routinely a target for German air raids.

Had this been known to the Luftwaffe, the British food procurement system would have been destroyed in a matter of days and European history would have taken a very different course. At the time it was a well-kept secret, today the story is told by William Sitwell, in his book Eggs Or Anarchy.

The book traces the challenges that faced food minister Lord Woolton, who applied the lessons he learnt in the world of business to a series of desperate logistical impasses. These were complicated by the antipathy of a less than enthusiastic civil service with its procedural agenda.

Conventional economics makes no allowance for the inherent costs that are part and parcel of animal products. Every egg producer faces regular bills as part of raising chickens, regardless of whether or not they are in lay. If the birds are to live, let alone lay eggs, feed bills are non-negotiable.

For most of the egg-buying public, this upstream reality is literally history. Without an idea of the real world implications, an egg is no more than a disembodied food ingredient. Its price is more complex than than any monetary value that might be assigned to it. In one context it can be priceless, when it is part of a cohort destined for breeding the next generation. This is also the start and the end of humanity’s grasp of the forces of nature.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.