Tales from the Morgue: Patriotic hens meeting war demands

2012-08-31T10:15:00Z 2016-01-26T15:22:32Z Tales from the Morgue: Patriotic hens meeting war demandsJohanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 31, 2012 10:15 am  • 

During World War II, dried eggs became one of the most nutritious foods that could be safely sent to troops overseas without spoiling.

Of course, dried eggs were made from fresh eggs, so in 1941, before the United States entered the war, farmers were encouraged to, well, encourage their hens to step up production.

At the time, the dried eggs were likely meant to be sent to countries in need. England was surely one of these.

The hens, it seemed, were up to the task.

From the Arizona Daily Star, July 3, 1942:





U.S. Poultry Production Meeting War Demands Here and Abroad


By Thomas R. Henry

WASHINGTON, July 2.—(NANA)— About 400,000,000 American Hens are producing, for home consumption and to feed the Allies, approximately six billion eggs a month — about a billion more then ever before have been produced in this country.

Their patriotic output is nearly a third greater than the 10-year average. There are more hens. They are eating more grain, an essential for egg-laying. The eggs, with all the water taken out but rich in protein and vitamins, are being shipped to England by the ton.

A year ago it was determined by food experts that dried eggs constituted one of the best forms in which the mammoth food production of America's farms could be gotten overseas with a minimum of shipping space. Farmers were urged to improve their flocks and increase their feeding. The result, department of agriculture experts say, has even exceeded their expectations. The people of England, especially, have come to accept dehydrated eggs with some enthusiasm.

Fresh Eggs Impracticable

Soon after the lend-lease program started it became apparent that shipment of entire eggs was not practical. It required refrigeration, and refrigerated bottoms were at a premium for other foodstuffs. One of the first cargoes of whole eggs was delayed for weeks when it arrived at a British port it had to be dumped down an abandoned mine shaft, the stench was so bad.

The program demands a constant replacement of the laying hens. In March 250,000,000 chicks were hatched, an all time record, and the number who have pecked they're way out of incubated eggs to date has been about 60,000,000 more than during the same period last year. More then half of this increase was in the west north central states where poultry food production is localized.

Male Problem

About a third of this increase, however, was of cocks which must go for broilers and fryers, for which there is no excessive demand. Some hatcheries in the large commercial broiler areas in the east have hatched 40 per cent fewer chicks this year than last and the problem of getting rid of the excess males may become acute.

The increased activity of their laying hens has been quite profitable to the farmers. The price for eggs has kept well above the spring average — 57 per cent above a year ago and 65 per cent above the ten-year average. The national average has been about 26 cents a dozen.

The statistics of egg processing are astronomical. For example, commercial egg-breaking plants during May produced 95,000,000 pounds of liquid eggs, half again as much as in the same month last year. About 57,000,000 pounds were frozen for preservation. The output of dried eggs was about 21,000,000 pounds, nearly 40-fold that of last May when the food features of the lend-lease program were just getting underway.


Farmers had surely had a bad time during the depression, so it must have been quite a boon to profit by supplying the war effort. It's too bad a war was what it took to really turn things around. 

The Morgue Lady suspects the price of fryers and broilers (those pesky excess males) was quite attractive to families.


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