We now have our nice roomy chicken coop but we still need to get our Nesting Boxes in order. No nest boxes means the chickens have been laying pretty much where ever they darn well please. Occasionally, The Beekeeper will wander in, after feeding the animals, with 2 or 3 eggs he manages to find in their feeder. But this is starting to become a far from a regular occurrence.
The eggs are quiet a treat for us. You can’t imagine how happy it makes me to get, cook and eat the spoils of our land. And so, this creates a problem: between my baking, our guests and our irregular supply, we are always running low on this special commodity.
So far I’ve been able to isolate 4 different egg layers, with an additional 3-4 which should be coming of age any day now. I still think we will need to add at least another couple of layers and nest boxes to help keep us in a good supply and eventually be able to sell or trade them. But, we really aren’t doing so bad, considering we have yet to purchases a single chicken.
All of our chickens were obtained by bartering and trading. We still have a couple too many roosters and a pair of ducks in our flock. But that’s still not too bad.
The Challenge: Organic Cage Free vs Homegrown Free Roaming
Then came Sunday Breakfast, as I am cooking up eggs for the family, I crack open our last homegrown egg, thinking nothing of it until I crack open one of our purchased Organic Cage Free Eggs, you can imagine my surprise at the difference. At first I thought something was wrong with our egg. Then I took notice that it was the other way around.
As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are uncaged inside barns, but they generally do not have access to the outdoors. They can engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting and spreading their wings. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no mandatory third-party auditing, though producers can choose to get certified according to the standard of one of the organizations below.
While the USDA has defined the meaning of “free-range” for some poultry products, there are no government-regulated standards in “free-range” egg production required to make the claim. Typically, free-range hens are uncaged inside barns and have some degree of outdoor access, but because there is no regulation of the term, there are no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed and no requirements for the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access. Because they are not caged, they can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no mandatory third-party auditing, though producers can choose to get certified according to the standard of one of the organizations below.
Also known as “free-range,” the USDA has defined this claim for some poultry products, but there are no standards in “free-roaming” egg production. See the description for “free-range” above.
Source: The Humane Society
What do “The Labels” mean?
In my opinion, not a whole hell of a lot as they imply a lot more of a promise than they actually stand up for. “Uncaged” means inside barns and “Free-Range” means “some degree of outdoor access” but even Prisoner get “some degree of outdoor access” and that doesn’t mean they are happy about it.
There is too much big business involved in something that should be done at a small scale artisan level. In my experience, I find eggs taste better when they come from chickens who do whatever they want and big business isn’t about to accommodate that but thankfully we do.
So then what’s the answer?
My mom asked why the difference in the colors was so drastic and I explained it was because our eggs were PASTURED EGGS and that the chickens get higher proteins and varied diet from eating bugs instead the homogenized feeds they get in those big operations. She was immediately grossed out. But when you think about it, it’s from the chickens being allowed to eat the things they need to be eating like bugs and grass and being allowed to roam in the pasture creating Happy Chickens and thus far better eggs.
Where do you get Pastured Eggs?
Well, I don’t think you will be finding them at the big chain stores any time soon considering all the rules and regulations. Though I hope I am wrong on that count. But you can definitely find them at Farmer’s Markets or if you have a friendly farmer near you.
But ultimately, in my opinion, you will never get at better egg than the one you get from your own backyard!
Books and Reference Materials:
The Egg Cookbook: The Creative Farm-to-Table Guide to Cooking Fresh Eggs
Eggs on Top: Recipes Elevated by an Egg
Pasture Perfect: How You Can Benefit from Choosing Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Products from Grass-Fed Animals
The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: Over 300 Delicious Whole Foods Recipes, Including Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, and Egg-Free Dishes
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