This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
Since I get regular emails on this subject, I thought I might as well create a whole post on restaurants (and a smattering of bars) in Chicago that I think are worth recommending.
The first of these is Elizabeth Restaurant ($$$), run by my friend Iliana Regan and her excellent staff. I chanced on an extra seat back when she was doing dinners at her apartment and ever since I’ve been a fan. I love her intricate approach to showing off what the woods and fields of the region have to offer. She has three menus, the ones that are probably the most interest to a visitor are the Owl, which is focused on Midwestern agriculture, and the Deer, which is focused on foraging and hunting. I’ve had bear, venison, raccoon, wild mushrooms, and other unique local woodland products here, all presented beautifully in multi-course formal tasting menus. You have to pre-buy tickets to this restaurant to secure your seats.
Salmon wrapped in turnip at Elizabeth
People who have serious food allergies who read this blog will be delighted to learn of the existence of Senza ($$$ previous post), a fantastic restaurant staffed by many veterans of Chicago’s most respected fine dining institutions that happens to be very strictly gluten-free, which is a boon for anyone with celiac disease. Unlike other gluten-free restaurants, the cuisine is more focused on meat, fish, fruits and vegetables than gluten-free bread and pasta that dominates the less accomplished restaurants of this genre. Tasting menu only, but it’s a perfect way to experience the talents of the kitchen.
Two less formal restaurants I frequent are Vera ($$) and La Sirena Clandestina ($$) in the West Loop, which is really the hub of the food scene here. Vera is a seasonally-focused Spanish-inspired wine bar. Sit at the Otro bar and enjoy delectable deviled eggs topped with creamy uni, the famous jamon iberico, the most perfectly cooked crispy brussel sprouts with anchovy dressing, and a glass from their very long list of sherries. Menu items change often as the seasons change, so I can’t recommend any one thing, but be sure not to miss ordering something each from the meat, the seafood, and the vegetable sections of the menu.
Bacon wrapped dates in blue cheese fondue and kale salad at Vera
La Sirena Clandestina is a romantic little South American-ish spot. I think some of my readers will enjoy it because the chef uses cassava flour for things like pao de quijo, which are cheese puffs (also found in Lakeview at Cassava, a gluten-free cafe), and fried smelt, which are little fish served with an aioli-like made with Brazillian malagueta peppers. I personally have an addiction to the empanadas, which are always filled with something new and interesting like spicy duck chorizo. Seafood dishes are a highlight here and there are lots of little appetizers that are surprising hits like the cilantro coconut risotto. Don’t miss the excellent cocktail program. I think the pisco sour is one of my favorite drinks in the city.
Cassava battered smelt at La Sirena
Another good option in the West Loop closer to the city core in Embeya ($$$), which has a nice selection of Southeast Asian dishes like this sausage stuffed squid and excellent drinks. If you are wheat-avoidant there is hardly any on the menu.
For Lunch, Blackbird ($$$ except for lunch special) is a great place to get a tasting menu that’s not very expensive. $22 will get you an excellent three-course menu that varies with the season. If you want something a little less formal, Publican Quality Meats ($) is a butcher shop that has a variety of really great options, like the butcher’s meal, which lately is Cocido, a Spanish blood sauage, cumin, and chickpea stew. I also go to Au Cheval sometimes for their chopped liver, which is so far my favorite liver in the city.
In my own neighborhood, which is above the West Loop and is usually called West Town, I am a huge fan of Ruxbin ($$), which is just really wonderfully cooked comfort foods with unique, often Asian-influenced, touches. One of the best dishes I had here was a perfectly cooked steak with miso-butter rice “tots” and the best crispy savory broccolini I’ve ever had. The catch is that it’s impossible to get into on Sunday, which is reservations only, and the rest of the days there are no reservations, so sometimes the wait can be long and unpredictable. I suggest putting your name down and heading to Noble Rot or Lush where you can get great beer or wine to bring back when your table is reading since Ruxbin is BYOB. I need to try more of the Mexican options in Chicago, but I typically go to the dive called Taqueria Traspasada ($), which is on the corner and open late, for simple good tacos.
For lunch, the local butcher shop, The Butcher and the Larder, serves up delicious sandwiches and soups. Other neighborhood staples for me are The Green Grocer, a small grocery store which has an excellent selection of pretty much everything I like, and Nini’s, a little Cuban-Lebanese deli that has an assortment of homemade and high-quality goods.
In Wicker Park I like Carriage House ($$), which features low-country Southern Food, Violet Hour ($$) for cocktails (but on weekends there is often a very long line to get in), and Trencherman ($$) for brunch and cocktails.
Logan Square is another food-lover’s mecca. I really enjoy the cocktails at Billy Sunday($$) and the Japanese-influenced food at Yusho ($$), particularly the savory egg custard known as chawanmushi. Longman & Eagle has delicious tallow fries.
Up north in my old neighborhood of Lincoln park I recommend The Peasantry ($$), which is very rich and delicious dishes inspired by street food, and Rickshaw Republic ($$), which is oddly enough Indonesian street food. I guess it makes up for Chicago’s anemic food truck scene,a consequences of draconian regulations here. For drinks in that area I recommend Barrelhouse Flats for cocktails and Deliahs for beer.
If you are willing to go further north, there are very good Indian, Thai, and Korean restaurants. For Korean I usually go to Dancen ($), which is a Korean dive bar where you can get cod roe soup that is really made with cod sperm sacks. It’s better than it sounds, but if that’s not your style, the seafood pancake is also really really good. For Thai I love Andy’s Thai Kitchen ($) and Sticky Rice ($), which have many authentic dishes, one of my favorites being the fermented sausages.
If you are willing to go way out of the way, Bridgeport is a fun artsy neighborhood further South that has Maria’s ($$), home to a truly impressive beer list and cocktail program, and Pleasant House ($), where they have managed to give British food a good name with their delicious flaky savory pies.
The more central areas of the city are not my preferred place to go, but if I have to be there, I will go to The Purple Pig ($$), a gastropub that is sometimes impossible to get into, Gyu Kaku ($), tasty Korean-Japanese barbeque with many offal options, Slurping Turtle, and Xoco ($), which has good hot chocolate and Mexican caldos (soups). For drinks I like Sable’s cocktails. I keep meaning to try Sumi Robata bar and will report back since that looks really awesome too.
That’s a lot of places, so if you want other recs for other neighborhoods or other types of cuisine, let me know in the comments. Also there are still places I need to try, so I will add more to this as I think of things or find new things.
Also don't forget to try the local Chicago-Swedish spirit, Malort, which I bet all of you will really really enjoy. It's a must!
If you want to know some underground dining options, you can email me privately.
I found this excellent little place called Wisma at the French Market near my office. They caught my eye because their salad dressings are made with olive oil and they have grass-fed free range meat.
The problem? Their salads. And I find this is a common problem at many restaurants. Because by the logic of these restaurants, if you want salad, it must mean you are into "health food." And if you are into "health food" you must be watching the fat content and definitely you don't want any evil red meat or anything.
The result is I often look at the sandwich menus at restaurants and my mouth waters, but the salads are kind of blah. At Wisma you can get a salad with meat, but it's skinless boneless chicken breast. It's not bad, especially since the dressing is so good and it comes with parmesan cheese, but I have to buy extra dressing.
Meanwhile in sandwich land, there is Q7 Ranch roast beef and blue cheese. Wouldn't that be awesome on a salad?
Also, wouldn't it be awesome if they could expand their range of gluten-free entrees by using corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas? I think anyone who is into Mexican food would agree corn tortillas are better anyway and there are many excellent local places in Chicago that hand-make them.
But the good thing about frequenting local businesses is that regular customers often do have an influence, so I definitely plan on asking them about whether they can offer salads for people who like to eat, a group I was informed I am part of when I was at Au Cheval and I ordered two types of liver pate.
Speaking of Chicago, I definitely recommend checking out this blog called From Belly to Bacon no matter where you live. It contains recipes for pork skin noodles and pickled nasturtium buds.
I'm dedicating this week to Soybean Oil, an ingredient I think all rational people should be able to rally against. Despite massive amounts of scientific evidence that large amounts of omega-6 oils are bad for anyone, this ingredient remains common in our food supply.
This year I was VERY VERY disapointed to find that Chipotle uses it in almost all their ingredients besides their pork. I don't know why I never knew this, I guess it was an instance of "maybe if I don't look at the ingredients I don't be upset."
Chipotle is one of the rare fast food outlets that tries to source meat decently and the salad bowl has been a favorite of mine for a long time.
This week I'm going to devote a blog post a day on why we shouldn't use this ingredient. This will culminate in a paleo flashmob of sorts at the Chipotle Test Kitchen in NYC. If you are in New York, please join us!
Between moving, work, school, and the very very sad state of my inbox, I haven't had much time to post.
I haven't had much time for anything, which is why I've been eating out quite a bit. I've had a bit of a sea change recently because I found out that my staple eating out food, Chipotle, isn't so great. It just reminds me that you have to question things you love after awhile or you'll get burned. First I found out via Diane from Balanced Bites that Chipotle uses soy oil. I hadn't looked at their site for awhile, so I guess I hadn't noticed. And since carnitas has SO MUCH natural fat WTF are they using soy oil for? It makes me very afraid that for "health" reasons they are skimming off the pork fat and replacing it with soy oil or something awful like that.
Also, it turns out the meat is sourced less carefully than I thought. A few years ago I heard some Chipotle executives speak at a conference and I thought they were pioneers at sourcing well, but according to Nate Appleman, their new spokesman "The chain uses local and organic ingredients when practical and meat from animals raised without antibiotics or added hormones."
What does "when practical" mean? And without antibiotics or added hormones is a sad low standard. It's like saying "we raise these animals without tormenting them with daily sessions of Justin Bieber's greatest hits."
Once I started getting disillusioned with Chipotle, I started thinking...why bother? NYC is full of nice restaurants using pastured lard, duck fat, and other good foods, but to be honest I don't live or work near those restaurants. So if Chipotle is not that great, why not patronize the local Thai joint that uses a mixture of olive and canola oil? I even found that after talking with the owner, I could get some dishes made with just coconut fat. Supporting a local business + delicious food = win. After moving I kind of went on a bonanza of doing this and honestly I feel great. Maybe it's because coconut is so dominant in many of the local cuisines (which include Thai and Filipino)? Maybe my gut is fully healed? Maybe conventional meat isn't so evil? (though I definitely want to get more local/grass-fed meat on the market). Either way, it's amazing to be eating out and having great digestion too. I'm really enjoying exploring all the cuisines of the world, which is a major benefit of living here. Whenever I can, I ask these local restaurants about what fat they use. If people ask, perhaps they'll change. The local Thai joint even brags about having wheat free food now. Trans fats are banned here, so the only ones I worry might be used are corn or safflower oil.
It brings me to the point that while I think lard/tallow/duck fat are great for me, they probably aren't a public health solution. If I went to a health conference and said restaurants should use them, I'd be laughed at. But high-oleic seed oils ARE definitely better for you and perhaps not even bad for you. They are possible to produce cheaply and are considered highly by almost every conventional standard. Imagine if they replaced soy and corn at restaurants and in schools? That would be a solution that would benefit everyone.
Instead we have public health programs that encourage things like eating low-fat and "moving more." I was somewhat amused when I read that Rush Limbaugh said Michelle Obama had gotten fat from eating ribs. It's quite clear that Michelle is not fat and I wonder if Rush got the right conclusion
Michelle My Belle, minus the husband, took the kids out to Vail on a ski vacation, and they were spotted eating and they were feasting on ribs, ribs that were 1,575 calories per serving with 141 grams of fat per serving. Now I'm sure some of you members of the new castrati: "This is typical of what you do Mr. Limbaugh, you take an isolated, once in a lifetime experience, and try to say that she's a hypocrite." She is a hypocrite. Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we're supposed to go out and eat nothing -- if we're supposed to eat roots, and berries and tree bark and so show us how. And if it's supposed to make us fit, if it's supposed to make us healthier, show us how.
Hmm, I'd venture that she's healthy because she doesn't follow the government's advice- because she's eating ribs rather than tofu. Wouldn't that be hilarious. Kind of like how her kids don't attend government schools perhaps? Meanwhile, Rush is losing weight by restricting his calories, which may have caused a recent bout with chest pains. Maybe he should just eat ribs and stop worrying about calories?
Some of you asked if I could re-post my list of meat priorities I did on paleohacks. Here's how I chose my meat:
1. My first choice will always be grass-fed local meat from farmers I know.
2. Generic grass-fed beef or lamb, wild fish.
3. Organic beef or lamb because of highly favorable fat content.
4. Pastured poultry or pork.
5. Halal beef or lamb(or goat) is more likely to be grass-fed because it's often imported from New Zealand. In addition, some Hispanic restaurants import their meat, particularly Argentine places. New Zealand and Australia pasture most of their ruminants.
6. Natural beef or lamb. Natural is kind of vague, but it's better than nothing I guess.
7. Feedlot beef or lamb. Spends at least some of its life on pasture.
7. Natural chicken = really just a factory farmed mass of soy.
Things I won't eat: farmed salmon, CAFO pork
Notice I will eat a wide variety of meat. For me, not being hungry and being nourished is more important than anything. I'm not the kind of person who will order a plate of greens in the absence of perfect meat.
It's funny because when I eat out, the places that make me feel the worst are the healthy places. Ugh, I think hell is other people's idea of healthy. Like my office cafe, which stocks such healthy options as low-fat strawberry shortcake yogurt, those sugar-packed Odwalla smoothies, Special K, and Vitamin Water. I would definitely get really sick if I ate those things, but I feel awesome after going to the local Argentine place for a skirt steak and plantains. Another offender for me is BBQ places. At first I thought it was the meat that was bad for me, but then I realized that the sauces at most BBQ restaurants is full of total crap. Sugar + meat = bad.
It's a testament to the size of this city that there are several "cult" paleo restaurants frequented by various "tribes." I don't know all of them and most of them I know from the grapevine, but Crossfit South Brooklyn's are Bierkraft (ask for the paleo "muffin") and Palo Santo. Apparently Crossfit Virtuosity's is Fette Sau, a famous Williamsburg BBQ place. Lately Eating Paleo in NYC's has been Takashi, which serves Korean-Style Japanese BBQ in the West Village. John and I have entertained various people here, including the reporter for a show that will be airing in January. Last Weekend we hosted the Eades alongside Jenna from Lean Machine NYC. All I can say is that it's great to meet authors that look as good in person as we're supposed to look on this diet. Remember, if you are representing paleo or high-fat it's your absolute responsibility to look as sexy as possible.
So about Takashi: imagine a temple of meat. The walls are decorated with praises to the wonders of liver and the health benefits of short ribs. Underrated cuts of meat are elevated to the point where eating liver is a joy and not a chore. Did I mention they serve their liver raw? It's fresh from the farm and marinated in a bit of sesame oil. You dip it in a bit of sea salt and it tastes like good fresh bluefin tuna. There is no hint of the deep bloody mineral taste that makes liver normally such a difficult meat to sell. Now that we are overfishing bluefin, perhaps this is the future of sushi? I did try to replicate this at home (I was unsuccessful) and my roommate's horrified reaction reminded me that this is not something normal people eat. But they would want it if they just tried it once here! This is the sort of place where you should go to dive into offal because they do it so well.
The first course is raw grassfed meat, the second is thin slices that you BBQ at the table's grill. Both are very good. The chuck tartare, liver, and spicy tendon are outstanding for the first course. If you want some balance the bowl of pickled and fresh fruits and vegetables, called namul, is a good choice. For the second there are succulent fatty sweetbreads that crisp perfectly. I was afraid of sweetbreads, the euphemistic name for the thymus gland or something horrible sounding like that. But they are nothing but goodness. The stomachs are good two, but mainly a reflection of their marination. This isn't to denigrate the muscle meats, which are also excellent. I believe John and I have eaten everything here.
Now that winter is coming, there are the kind of things I need. Though winter has been slow to come this year, perhaps to keep the birds from flying away. I suppose it's strange to have been here long enough to be saying goodbye to people who are moving on. I know I can't tarry here for too much longer myself. I enjoy the city, but I don't love it. When I see ads for travel on the subway my heart leaps a little. And I'm not thinking about just going for a week, I'm talking leaving— immersing myself in another place again. Maybe it will be a place that refreshes me rather than steeps me in a type of fetid torrent like this city often does.
At least lately I am certainly well-nourished. I have been struggling to eat all my food before I go away for Thanksgiving, including a pork roast from Meatshare, blood pudding from Mosefund, beef liver, and turkey sausages from Brooklyn Cured. I've also been on a bit of a kimchi kick. I think I've probably eaten 4 types of kimchi this week. Maybe I need to move to Asia? But you know I also have this desire to settle down and find a place I'm not afraid to plant trees. I have all these tree catalogs on my nightstand and I always like to read them to relax. Some of them take nearly a decade to bear fruit or nuts. I don't feel my current life in on that kind of a timescale. It would be wonderful to be somewhere I loved well enough to put down those sort of literal roots.
This gross pic on Gothamist of Whole Foods hot bar food transported alongside of garbage got me thinking that maybe the two really do belong together.
Whole Foods, despite being a source of decent grass-fed meat and seafood, was already kinda in paleo hot water because of their promotion of a low-fat vegan nutrition plan in store literature and signage. I took this pic in the produce section last month:
Isn't "low fat" and "nutrient dense" an oxymoron? Well, if Whole Foods is the only place you can find good food, I recommend you make a beeline for the meat counter and then hightail out of that place. Do not pass the fruit juice section, do not collect organic low-fat chocolate cookies. And especially skip the hot foods bar. In NYC a good quick cheap meal is hard to come by. On the surface the hot bar looks like a good choice, but look at the ingredient lists and you'll find canola oil and other questionable ingredients in EVERYTHING. Ugh. Why ruin a perfectly good chicken by drenching it in that dreck? It's just WRONG!
Fairway, a major Whole Foods rival, uses olive oil in its hot bar. Thank goodness there is one next to my office.
I will forewarn you with the fact that this post involves the eating of animals that many Americans consider pets. Which is a damn shame...why are American parents being food for their children to keep as pets? It precludes many delicious culinary experiences and everyone knows that parents who get Little Timmy (to use Bourdain's literary device) Floofy the Rabbit instead of Fido are just lazy.
The Gastronauts is an NYC supper club of sorts for adventurous eaters, recently featured in the NYTimes. The meals served at that dinners are a vegetarian's worst nightmare— a morass of strange blobby organs, tentacles, eyeballs, and faces. They say macabre; I say marvelous.
For me as a (mostly) paleo eater these dinners are usually fine. Last night's was unusually good for me. Apparently, Peruvian food, besides some corn, which is served as a fresh vegetable anyway in most cases, has some great meaty options.
I found myself in Jackson Heights, Queens...actually the site of some of the city's tastiest and most adventurous restaurants. We went to Urumbamba, mostly for the guinea pig, which is called cuy in Peruvian cuisine.
Guinea pigs are certainly stupider than regular pigs and certainly not deserving of carnivore amnesty. Think of them as fattier rabbits.
But apparently the Gastronauts organizers, Curtiss and Ben, found this dish hard to procure— some people even told them it was illegal. That never stopped them though, as they have even braved torrents of PETA hatemail to ensure us diners access to seafood so fresh that it fights back.
So what was on the menu? First we had octopus in a rather ugly pink olive sauce. It was salty and not much else, but I've never been very enthusiastic about pulpo anyway.
Next up was lovely little red and orange peppers stuffed with ground beef and topped with a cap of velvety melted cheese, which burst with spicy flavor:
Next up was spicy grilled veal heart, which was incredible. I must learn some Peruvian recipes because the marination of all the meats with just perfect . Whatever they did, it brought out the best in this under-appreciated cut of meat by cutting the mineral flavors and accentuating the highly delectable savory "umami" notes. I didn't really bother with the corn, as it lacked flavor:
Black clam ceviche was refreshing tart and seabreeze salty:
Now for the coup d'etat: guinea pig/cuy. It was definitely interesting. As I said before, it does taste a lot like rabbit, but much fattier, particularly in the skin. Unfortunately, the skin was tough like pigs skin and could have used a good frying :) Some of our tablemates ate the eyeballs and the rest of the head, but what happened to the heart? That might have been nice to get on a skewer.
I found cow's foot stew the most challenging. The texture was gelatinous and unpredictable. Some pieces of foot were chewy, others melted in my mouth like little tapioca balls. At that point perhaps we were feeling a little food fatigue, but we were revived by a plate of various marinated meats, the best being fragrant unctuous lamb, with some sweet potatoes.
Next up was a more conventional rodent, rabbit, which was just slightly spicy in all the right ways. A nice surprise was how well the juices went with the boiled cassava. I definitely want to explore cassava more, as I get tired of sweet potatoes after workouts.
I'm definitely interested in exploring more Peruvian flavors and elements in my own cooking. Not sure where to get guinea pig meat though!
Is that scary or what? It's the half pig's head at hipster Williamsburg BBQ joint Fatty 'Cue. But pigs head is the best kept secret out there. It's fatty fat flavored fat. And this was more than enough for me and two guys. The best parts- the fatty jowls and cheeks. The parts I let the guys have- the brains and eyes. The tough skin and the bones went to some lucky dogs.
Most species that eat meat prize the head over any other part. Killer whales often just eat parts of the head and leave the rest to scavengers. Native Americans that made big kills often did the same. The head has tons of fat- and the brain particularly is a great source of DHA.
At Fatty Cue it also comes with pork rinds and a delicious pineapple curry that was perfect for cutting the fattiness of the meal.
Bets asks "Where does one even buy an eye or a nose to eat? The thought of peeling a tongue invokes pain to my core. That said, I never say never and am game."
From Offal Good's store
Offal can be scary, but it can also be mind-blowingly delicious. I hate to admit it, but if I had started out on offal with a bag of bloody livers bought from the farmer's market, I might not be writing this blog (the same goes for fish...I'm never would have tried shrimp or lobster if I didn't eat out). Let a good restaurant usher you into the wonderful world of offal, starting with the least-scary things- cheeks and marrow bones, which are so delicious they probably don't qualify as offal. Tongue is also delicious, but hard to cook right. If you are willing to eat non grass-fed meat, most authentic Mexican places serve it, but it's increasingly found in upscale restaurants. Liver you might not need to go to a restaurant for, since pates can be found at a good butcher or grocery store.
Eating food prepared by an expert can give you a taste of how great offal can be when prepared properly, which is a great motivation to cook it yourself. When I started cooking from Nose to Tail, I knew what I liked about offal and was able to modify the recipes accordingly. For me, the route to a great offal recipe is tons of spicy chili and lime.
I also admit to being very inspired by the offal adventures of one Anthony Bourdain.
Another reader pointed out that most of my advice seems cleared towards people in major metro areas, but I started out eating offal in Champaign, IL, which is three hours from a major city. You might have to travel some, but supporting a good chef and eating great food is worth it. Also, sometimes ethnic restaurants in American towns will have offal items not on the menu, so it might be worth asking.
My latest offal adventure was at Traif with Rhys Southan & friends. I admit I was a little scared to try the sweetbreads, but both of us have reputations as adventurous eaters to uphold and we bravely ordered them. Thankfully, they were absolutely delicious...who knew they would have so much delicious fat! I remember when I was a kid and I thought sweetbreads were cinnamon rolls and asked for some. When my grandma told me what they were I was totally appalled and couldn't believe anyone would eat such a horrible thing. Hehe.
However, Rhys and I were sorely dissapointed by X'ian famous foods. When we ordered the lamb face salad we expected it to be absolutely ghastly, full of macabre parts of eyeballs and gums, but instead it was a mixture of nice spicy fatty cheeks and vegetables. Sometimes you want your offal good, other times you want to just eat it because it exists.
Let's get this clear: The Humane Society of The United States is an organization devoted to animal rights. Animal rights does not mean being nice to animals, it means eliminating ALL animal use from pets, to pork, to scientific animal testing that saves millions of lives. Unfortunately, many people associate The Humane Society with being nice to kittens rather than outlawing all meat consumption. While I don't agree with everything they post, Humane Watch has done a great job demystifying HSUS's true intentions.
But many people are still fleeced. Maybe it's just me, but if you want to support small family cattle or other meat farms, why would you ally with a group whose ultimate goal is their elimination? HSUS is being rather sneaky, much to the ire of more honest AR groups, and has participated in "animal welfare" campaigns, but that doesn't change their animal rights agenda.
That was clear last week in NYC when AR groups confronted a backyard chicken keeper at a food event. It's hard to peg an organization that has "sanctuary" or "mercy" in its name. Unlike PETA, such organizations do have a generally positive reputation. But they showed their true colors by bashing small scale farmers and advocating world veganism. I love on the blog post how the Mercy For Animals guy says he is concerned about male chicks and the transportation of laying hens. Get real, even if those things stopped, these organizations would campaign against eggs. The truth is that these organizations and their agenda are very much threatened by nice small farms. When consumers visit these farms they know that not all animal product consumption is anything like what's portrayed in AR propaganda videos.
I think it is kind of silly how people think egg production is better than meat production though. In my experience, grassfed meat production is more respectful of an animal's true nature than egg production is. Chicken farmers typically order their chickens from these factory hatcheries and slaughter their layers at the end of the season. Most free-range chickens don't really range that much. Contrast that with cattle, who are often bred on-farm and often range over several acres. The benefit with chickens is that they are cheap, easy to keep, and are quite efficient at feed converters, though for us paleos they aren't the greatest food because they are almost always fed grain.
As everyone knows, I am a passionate advocate for small farms, but I think allying with organizations like HSUS to punish factory farms is NOT the way. I think that improving the infrastructure for local meat farmers and educating people about the health benefits of grassfed meat is the way to go. I'm pretty disappointed with Chipotle for supporting HSUS's efforts in Ohio for more food fascism. I sometimes used to eat there, as it's a pretty decent and consistent paleo option, but I think I will boycott. Whole Foods got a lot of hate from the local meat movement for pushing a vegan agenda in their stores, but at least they weren't trying to push for laws. Stocking your shelves with The China Study is distasteful, but on a different level than passing regulations that make life hard for your opponents.