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The hen with the golden eggs

How a food designer tells stories

How a food designer tells stories

What if we could pay for things with eggs? Would we handle money more carefully? Marije Vogelzang is one of the first food designers on the planet and is researching the world in terms of its most everyday subject: food. She is currently working with a chicken farmer in Brabant, using eggs to see how we deal with money.

Marije Vogelzang

Marije Vogelzang

Vogelzang designs products and experiences that tell a different story about food. Using a more personal approach, she explores its role as part of a healthy social life, constantly re-examining our historical relationship with food.

“Most people initially think that food design is about designing food. But I find food to already be intrinsically beautiful. What I do is research how we produce food, prepare it and how we eat in the company of others. These experiences are central to this work.”

For her latest work entitled ‘The Eggchange’ she carried out a project together with a chicken farmer and discovered that the proverbial hen that laid the golden eggs is more than a fable about greed.

The ancient tale

One hot day in August, a poor farmer finds a golden egg in the nest of his favourite hen. He can scarcely believe it, but all his money worries are over in a flash. The next day, there’s another golden egg, and another the day after that. Yet as his wealth grows, so does his greed. The farmer becomes impatient and decides to slaughter the hen so that he can reap all the golden eggs at once. When he cuts the hen open, he doesn’t find a single golden egg. And he has wrung the neck of his hen that laid the golden eggs.

Means of payment

Vogelzang uses this story as the starting point for ‘The Eggchange’, a philosophical economic model in which eggs are worth their weight in gold. “If you were to hatch the eggs of a single cockerel and ten hens, then within four generations they could provide a quarter of the chicken meat we consume. That’s an incredible increase in value, one that the consumer is unaware of or in any event doesn’t seem to be surprised by.”

The Eggchange’

But what if eggs were to become a means of payment? A coin that has an interest rate determined by natural laws?the eggchange

“With eggs, you have different choices. You can eat them straight away, you can let the eggs hatch and eat the chicks, or put time and care into raising these chicks. In turn, the adult chickens lay eggs and present you with the same choice again: eat or hatch.  You have to invest time in this. It makes no sense to do nothing and hoard your eggs.”

All of these ideas came together in ‘The Eggchange’ office during Dutch Design Week and at Fabriek Magnifique.

“The food industry is large and complex, making it all the more important to continue asking questions.”

Vogelzang’s studio is plastered with drawings and designs for ‘The Eggchange’ and plans for a performance at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Behind the drawing board stands a large yellow hatching machine containing forty eggs.

“In a couple weeks, I’ll have forty chicks running around here. We as people often keep animals very close to us as pets, or keep them out of sight for production purposes and then just eat them. I’m looking for something in between: giving animals a good life but without getting attached to them.”


words: Daphne Rieken
photography: Ilja Keizer, Robert Eikelpoth


Project CV
Marije Vogelzang

During her studies at the Design Academy, Marije Vogelzang discovered the power of food as a material for design. She wants to tell a story with her designs. Not in language but in the tastes, flavours and colours of food. So she made a Junk Cake, because cakes are delicious but they always contain a lot of junk. These cakes are now sold in supermarkets, filling stations and educational institutions. Triodos Cultuurfonds (Triodos Culture Fund) is financing her new studio in Dordrecht. www.marijevogelzang.nl

What do you think of "The hen with the golden eggs"

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Mrs V Soar 4 years ago

Actually it was a GOOSE that laid the golden egg. Hence the proverb about not killing the goose which lays the golden egg

George Muskett 4 years ago

As a vegan I would rather search for the philosopher’s stone than consider the exploitation of chickens as an economic model. There is no “natural law” that says chickens or their eggs are available to eat or procreate for our benefit.

Shahram 4 years ago

Very interesting. It reminds me of the satire on the banking and financial systems based on hens and eggs, it is called THE BATTLE OF THE WEASEL AND THE HEN on Amazon Kindle. Perhaps you would enjoy reading it, it’s message is of justice and not giving in to greed. https://www.amazon.co.uk/BATTLE-WEASEL-HEN-Shahram-Parvin-ebook/dp/B01CD56BXO?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc

Tina Smith 4 years ago

Just one more person commodifying and exploiting animals.