WHOLEsome Food: EGGS

Yesterday, on Facebook, I saw a post that I found eye opening.  

The post got my attention but so did the comments from folks still talking about the price of eggs.  I hear folks gripe a lot about the price of farm fresh eggs.  

No question, farm fresh food can be pricey in comparison to the big box stores. We're so conditioned to the prices established by the industrial size farms, when we're faced with the prices associated with the small, local growers offering the most healthful alternatives we often feel a bit of sticker shock. 

Many folks realize the choice they're making but for those that want to be a bit enlightened I thought it was time to share a bit of chicken and egg farming reality...

Yes, you can buy a dozen factory eggs from chickens lucky to see the light of day.  You can always be assured your eggs come from tightly confined hens dropping their eggs on a conveyor belt.  And yes, you can get those for around $1.99 or sometimes less!

Pastured, free range chicken eggs run $4-$5 in our neck of the woods.  Organic are even higher I'm not going to engage the "organic" discussion here, that might be a future Blog. 

Let me show you what you get for that extra $1.50.  

Look at the difference in nutrients!

And, if nutrients don't get your attention (the foodie in me never leaves the room) have you tasted the difference in a farm fresh egg and a store bought? 

Can you see the one?  Now you should taste the difference!  

What the farmer feeds the chickens, or pigs, cows, and sheep or even vegetable crops will have a direct impact on the price they have to (or should) charge the consumer.   You want your farmer sourcing the best inputs.  Small farms like ours don't always have the luxury of buying in bulk or spreading our costs.   On our farm the quality of input is so important.  We end up sourcing our inputs from specialty vendors and the cost is at a premium. 
Did you know....chickens are pigs
Not the cute pink squealing type. So named because they eat and eat more then you imagine they could.  Creative farmers are always thinking of ingenious healthy ways to keep them full like planting a field of something chickens love but then they have to worry about the need for a balanced diet.  Yep, no kidding, they need proper attention to balanced nutrients.  

This time of year we also face slowing of egg production due to shorter days and molting.  Industrial farms, well they just pour another concrete pad and add some light bulbs.  They have learned how to manipulate nature, we small farmers are still figuring out how to work with in her parameters!

 So, next time you pick up a dozen matter the source...think about those chickens and think about your health.  Most important though....if we want to have small farmers growing healthy food for us we need to 
Rethink our Food Choices!

As a farmer raising chickens I am blessed to see with my own eyes the bright happy spirit in these animals sniffing, scratching, rolling, cackling, and eating what nature provides....

They don't wear galoshes

We have had so much rain here this year.  My 102 year old mother in law says she has never seen anything like it and that's a whole lotta years to be comparing to.   We've certainly seen rain in large quantities come through quickly but not over such an extended period of time. The farmers growing vegetables have had quite a difficult year.

As livestock farmers, were not complaining. If your in the business of grass, things are good!  We have an abundance of grass and the sheep are loving it. This would be a year we'd duplicate in a heart beat...if given the choice.  Alas, that's not the way mother nature works.  So, we'll enjoy our bounty this year and hope to be as grateful next year.... regardless of what she has in store for us.

Rain or shine, there are chores on the farm that must be done!  Egg collections is just one.

Much to the dismay of Sir Richard (pictured here) we collect eggs daily.  He'd prefer having little progeny strutting about.  At least, based on his frequency of procreation you'd want to think that.  Believe you me, it's far from his fault there aren't little chicks running around.  Those of you that know chickens know what I'm talking about.  Wear those hens OUT!  That's why many farms choose not to have a rooster.  Unless you want chicks there is really no reason to have roosters.  Unless of course your like me and believe a farm isn't complete with out the morning crow of the rooster.

For some reason when it rains our eggs are covered in mud.  I haven't quite figured out how the mud gets on the eggs but they are generally covered.  It's not just one egg.  It's not just one hen.  I try not to disturb the eggs too much so if they arrive looking clean I put them directly in the egg carton.  On a normal day of collection (sans rain) there is always an egg or two that needs a bit of attention but not the majority and mud is usually not an issue.

The girls have nesting boxes to lay their eggs.  The nesting boxes are under the cover of the chicken coop roof so neither the nests or the coop perches are exposed to rain or mud.  The nesting boxes themselves aren't muddy.  Just how do those eggs get so muddy?  Maybe their feather bums drag across the grass hitting the occasional mud puddle or two and that's how it happens? They share nesting boxes so maybe it's one hen that is just a dirty girl with dirty feet?  Maybe it's one hen that likes to dirty the other girls eggs?  Maybe the hens get a little crazy?

Maybe Hen Party has more meaning then we know?  There are too many dirty eggs for it to be one or two hens.  How many hens does it take to have a hen party?

The Hay Bale Fiasco

On a sheep farm you've gotta have hay.  We are a sheep farm.  I'm not adding this up for your benefit, I'm trying to remind myself why we have this current dilemma.  What dilemma you ask?  Well, it goes like this....
Last year we added chickens to the farm to improve our pastures, the natural way!  They're is nothing finer then chickens scratching and chickens pooping on a pasture.  I'm happy to share the science of it all but that's for another Blog topic...and another blogger!  So, having chickens it was and we have enjoyed having them.
 Having a rooster crow in the morning....every farm must, right?  Chickens produce those yummy farm fresh eggs...gotta have those too right?  And so, we did.  The real icing on the chicken addition, we'll sell those eggs and that will really add to our farms productivity, right?

All those facts became reality, except maybe one....productivity.  Again, I am not going to address all the chicken realities we've rearranged our farm for, just the most recent.

We spent a great deal of time last month putting up hay, cutting and baling and stacking ever so beautifully in the barn, Whew!  A huge task done.  The sheep will be fed this winter!  Wait, whats all that clucking I hear?  It was as if we'd sold tickets to THE chicken gathering of the century and we'd asked them to arrive earlier then the gates were opened.  I mean those gals were lined up to get in.  All in, around and over those bales they came.  They were picking at the seed heads and just enjoying the change to their I thought that's all they were doing.

 Ok, ok, I know I still haven't gotten to the point.  We sell the eggs, right?  We have a pretty standard order to deliver each week, pre sold!  That's great.  Each day we collect eggs and each Saturday we deliver them.  That's the routine.
Well I believe someone forgot to tell the hens we have a routine. Our laying boxes have become passe for the time being. The chickens have decided to lay those eggs 10 feet up on top of bales stacked so tight to the rafters we can't even see what's up there.  So, how productive is it for us to climb and hunt for our eggs each day so that we make about $40 per week?  We've had to scramble a bit to fill our orders and the saddest part according to my husband, there have been no egg consumed in our house lately.   Each chicken challenge we've faced we find a bit more chicken wisdom. We are now presented with a new challenge.  We haven't really figured out how we'll lure them back to our desired organized method of collecting but we'll figure something out.  It is my contention those hens just wanted to be sure we know....Chickens Rule!