…produce steel girders, tin, bolts, machinery, tractors, pipes, irrigation equipment, trucks…and petrol to run the trucks… In addition to the energy used in the factories there is the energy needed to produce the factories and input materials, especially the energy to run the factories. These outputs are used to build egg factories, vast sheds containing thousands of hens…in inhumane conditions.
Silos to hold grain
Water supply systems
Roads to farms producing feed
Egg processing equipment, packaging, labelling, especially the energy-intensive refrigeration
Chemicals, e.g., to control disease in the sheds
Trucks and systems to dispose of the chicken manure, which does not go back to the fields which grew it.
International systems for production of the steel etc. to make all the factories, ships, aircraft, buildings and high-rise offices, etc.
Backyard and village cooperative pens can be made from scrap materials and local saplings, earth etc., plus a small amount of wire netting and tin for roofing. No need for steel girders, trucks machinery, ships. Poultry and other animals fed mostly via free range and recycling of kitchen scraps to soils. Processing of eggs and meat via local informal arrangements, or small village coops and “firms”. No transport, marketing, insurance personnel departments …

…where most egg producers work at managing the inventories, orders, logistics, deliveries, payments, advertising, marketing, financial arrangements…most people getting eggs to you wear suits and sit at computer screens….and use energy driving to work.
These offices are made from steel, concrete, glass, aluminium and plastics, and they need carpets, air conditioning, coffee, desks, personnel departments, lighting…and lots of computers and suits.
Few egg producers ever see a chicken or an egg, or enjoy communicating with them.
We don’t need any of that.

Most egg producers have tertiary qualifications, complex skills in accounting, chemistry, vet science, management, finance, logistics, …that can take 20 years of “education” to get. Many lawyers are involved in the production of eggs.
Kids can look after chickens. Only a few simple (but important) skills are needed.

Food production via modern soil-mining agriculture runs down soils, e.g., acidification, loses of carbon and soil nutrients , monocultures require pesticides. Energy and materials intensive infrastructure systems contribute to the global resource impact of industrial society. High density sheds require anti-biotics etc. Manure often a waste problem, eutrophying water ways, inefficiently used or dumped … not returned to soils that produced the feed
Chickens free range, eat kitchen food scraps, returning nutrients to soils, eat pests (e.g., snails), clear weeds, aerate soils by scratching, enhance leisure-rich landscapes. No pesticides, few resources, no energy… Healthier chickens, so few chemicals or vets needed.

Typically boring, routine narrow work, in the sheds or at the screens all day.
No work. Chickens are a delight to care for, involving a few minutes a day, via home pens or village co-ops and rosters.

None. Eggs are only a commodity. Costs are multiplied, e.g., manure becomes a problem requiring energy and expenditure. Agribusiness destroys country towns.
Poultry and other animals enrich the local landscape with diversity, closeness to nature, tasks and responsibilities for kids, learning about nature, reinforcement of earth-bonding. Chickens perform many functions, integrated with other animals, plants and systems, e.g., enrich soils, reduce pests, provide entertainment, clear weeds, prepare garden beds, dispose of food “wastes”, provide feathers for pillows, produce chicks, feeds themselves, help to keep us sane and animal-sensitive. A source of pride in skill and self-sufficiency; we can provide ourselves with eggs, we take responsibility for this aspect of the homestead or community we run well.

Egg prices include the cost of all the avoidable overheads, including interest on all the debt carried by the corporations involved, along with the pyramided cost of all the advertising, and insurance involved at all levels, the salaries of the corporate lawyers…and the outrageous CEO salaries.. . and the taxes and profits at all levels.
None. We can even produce and distribute eggs without any money.

If the global economy falters egg supply can be cut, along with jobs in the industry. Egg farms go bankrupt, poor people can’t afford eggs.
A simple, local system gives complete independence and security from the outside economy. We can go on providing ourselves with eggs no matter what.

…always old, sometimes stale, contain dubious chemicals, produced by unhappy chickens, carrying a high embodied energy and resource cost …and that cost money.
…perfect, fresh, pesticide-free, guilt-free, produced by happy chickens…and that cost no money at all.


The principle can be applied to most of the basic needs people have, e.g., for most other foods, housing (small earth-built dwellings), basic clothing, furniture, tools, toys, community buildings. Capacities can be greatly increased if small amounts of national resources are allocated to development of small regional firms, i.e., by providing basic/simple machinery, timber, steel, glass etc. for use by villages in building their infrastructures. (For poultry this includes little more than wire netting, wire and corrugated iron.)

Yet conventional development ignores all this and focuses on “getting the economy going”, i.e., trying to get local rich people or foreign corporations to invest in plantations and factories to produce luxuries to export to rich countries, drawing scarce resources into inappropriate development, while creating very few low paid jobs for poor people…which they can then spend buying eggs…from foreign owned supermarkets. This is of course real development because it does far more for the GDP than helping villages to set up poultry co-ops…which would actually reduce the GDP because those people then would not be buying eggs…anyone can see that’s not development. Anyway, having people produce to meet their own needs outside the monetary economy is no good for people who have capital to invest and want as much buying and selling going on as possible … or for those in rich countries who benefit most when poor countries put all their “development” effort into producing cheap exports.

Thus conventional development enables legitimate plunder. Third world resources and products flow to rich countries and are not used to meet urgent local needs. Market forces are allowed to determine what is produced and who gets it, and because the rich can always pay more they get almost everything and the poor go without, and the wrong things are developed.

Conventional development is capitalist development; it takes for granted that development cannot take place unless those with capital invest it in your region. This is a vicious myth; any region has abundant resources, rainfall, soils, labour, skills, with which simple technologies could meet most of the basic needs people there have, if these were applied directly to meeting those needs via mostly cooperative systems which did not allow profits to be siphoned out to the owners of capital. It is not the siphoning out that is most objectionable, it is the fact that capitalist development never develops the right things.

Why don’t Third World people, especially their governments, take the alternative path? The answer is a) because of the almost complete dominance of the conventional growth-and-trickle-down conception of development, and b) because they are prevented from doing these things, by the rules imposed by Structural Adjustment Packages (and now “austerity” packages)…which stipulate that national resources must go into paying off debt to rich world banks, not into meeting basic needs, let alone into purposes that would add nothing to the GDP. (See TSW website, Third World Development, http://socialsciences.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/ThirdWorldDev.htm)
Hence the core principle in The Simpler Way conception of development, for rich as well as poor countries. It is to focus on developing Economy B, underneath the conventional economy, to enable communities to take control of the development of their own local resources and capacities to produce as much for themselves as they reasonably can to meet their most urgent basic needs, in basically cooperative, non-profit and non-market ways. (For the detail see Trainer, 2010. For a summary of the alternative way see , http://socialsciences.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/TheAltSoc.lng.html)

Frederick Trainer <[email protected]>

Mollison, B., (1988), Permaculture; A Designer’s Manual, Tyalgum, Tagari.
Trainer, T., (2010), The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World, Sydney, Envirobook.