Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Egg enlightenment

I am searching for eggs.

I am really having trouble with this one.

Cage free, free range, free roaming, organic...anyone have any more to add to the list?

From what I can see so far there is really no universal labelling program in place for this mess. Cage free sounds good, but all the hens are still just jammed all together. Just not in a cage, so to speak. Free range and Free roaming I think are one in the same. I may be mistaken tho. They have the ability to roam freely, but can still be fed not so good things to eat. So, that leaves us with organic. Is it really better in this case? Are they still all shoved in pen somewhere laying eggs like crazy, but getting good food to eat?

Can anyone enlighten me on this?

10 comments:

Alison said...

The organic eggs aren't too much better, although it's true that their feed can't contain chemical fertilizers or pesticides (and that's something). Officially, with organic, the chickens have to have "access" to pasture...though they don't necessarily use it (their food and water is indoors, and they often go so long without being allowed outside, that when they finally are given a door to the outside, they don't even know it).

Still, it's hard to believe that anything is worse than conventional eggs - their lives are about the worst. I think they have a 10% loss due to extreme stress. Plus, the food they get is crappy, and the eggs apparently just aren't as good.

I was planning this spring to do a taste/quality test among some different eggs. I wanted to wait until the snow melted, so the chickens would be outdoors more when I did it.

Are you near any farms? Or is there a farmers market near you? Honestly, I think that the best thing is to buy from a small farmer whenever possible, organic or not. Many small farmers are simply too small to go for the organic certification - but it doesn't mean that they don't take care of their chickens. And on small farms, the chickens are most likely to roam, and eat the stuff that their supposed to (by pecking).

Frugal Mom said...

Alison: Yeah, we have a great Farmers Market. It is only seasonal tho, which really stinks come winter time! I do plan on getting them there when it opens. Winter, of course will be the tricky part. It can all just get so darn confusing. Knowing which ones are gonna be the best ones to get...

Gnightgirl said...

Have you called Miner Farm, on Bloomington Road? My mom used to buy eggs there when we were kids, and I see it's still listed in the yellow pages....that is all I know about it though.

Alison said...

Doing some more thinking: I've got friends who raise their own eggs, too - in their backyards, next to the kids' swingset. Doesn't take much space, and I think it doesn't cost all that much to do it. That's another thing I want to learn more about. Could we do it in our tiny back yard? Will we all get avian flu? I'll let you know when I find out.

Frugal Mom said...

Alison: How I would love to be able to do that. The darn people tho in charge of our neighborhood association thingie will not allow us to. There are people out here who have tried and have gotten fined...can you believe it? Oh, how I wish I could find some nice land in this cornfield state I live in!

Gnightgirl said...

Keep 'em in the basement, and the homeowner's association will never know.

I know. I'm a gynus.

Frugal Mom said...

Gnightgirl: You are a gynus. I never thought of that. We were gonna do that worm mulching down there. Now I can just feed the chickens some worms, right?

The Expatriate Chef said...

It's true, the labels can be deceptive. The ideal egg is from a chicken that has real time on a pasture to supplement her diet with grasses and bugs, is fed a high-Omega-3 vegetarian diet, no antibiotics, no animal by-products, and supplemented with organic grain. These are not often found at the grocery store.

big mama said...

Hi, first time to your blog and had to comment on this one. I just read "Holy cows and Hog Heaven" by Joel Salatin. He talks about eggs specifically. Your absolutely best bet is to find a farmer who raises pastured chickens, as these eggs are more nutritious than all the other stuff. Chickens with access to pasture means they eat bugs, and that makes their eggs better. Organic is not necessarily better, especially if you're buying from a supermarket, because if the eggs come from small producers they may lie around the packaging plant for a while, so they don't tend to be very fresh.

I know you're not gonna like this, but Salatin essentially says to eat eggs in season and try not to eat them in winter. In our house, we buy direct from the farm March - Dec, and the other 3 months we do organic or if we can we get pastured eggs in our small organic supermarket.

I agree with Alison to talk to the farmers. They should give you straight answers about their products if they want your business. And remember to ask if they use chemical fertilizers, rather than compost/manure on their pasture.

Tough question, no easy answers. Good luck!
PS look on eatwild.com or localharvest.com for farms in your area.

Frugal Mom said...

big mama: Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for the info, too. I can't wait till my farmers market opens. The winter is always the hardest to get fresh stuff around here.