Why Are Your Eggs So Damn Expensive?

 

free-range-chickens

Some one recently asked me “Why are free range eggs are so damn expensive? At first I was offended, then I was confused by the question.

Then I actually had to laugh. How could a measly 33 cent egg be such an emotional issue and the financial scorn of this one individual?

Finally I decided I had, before me, a great opportunity to educate someone regarding the world and economics of a local farmer.

Lots of people claim that we all should support our local farmer. It keeps money locally, it’s great for the environment as there is less waste from farm to table because outsourced food is coming from either out of state or out of country burning up diesel, tires, and the road. Buying local connects people to their food supply thereby ensuring they get the best product available.

But… sometimes people who complain about pricing don’t realize what it takes to get that all natural or organic food to them. It’s time to rethink our priorities when purchasing food for our families and start realizing you get what you pay for. CHEAP really doesn’t mean better.. of course more expensive doesn’t either. But a quality food grown with healthy ingredients on healthy land with sustainable practices by farmers who are committed to the best food they can raise and sell just costs more money.

So before I talk about the costs associated with producing “the incredible edible egg” (to borrow a phrase) I wanted to highlight a few health benefits from consuming this awesome food.

Some of this information is from an article I read authored by  Dawn Walls-Thumma writing for SFGATE.

But first I want to start by pointing out eggs are a great source of protein. they provide complete protein. One hard-boiled egg has 6.29 grams of protein, which gives men 11 percent of their daily intake, while women get 14 percent.

Let’s begin with fat and cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends reducing intake of both saturated fat and cholesterol in order to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Several studies including one from “Mother Earth News” found that eggs from pasture-fed free-range hens contained  1/3 less cholesterol and 1/4 of the saturated fat as conventional eggs.  Another Research and Education study gave some similar results, with pastured hens producing eggs with 10 percent less fat and 34 percent less cholesterol.

Vitamin A is needed for good teeth, bones, and eyes need this vitamin for good vision. It also acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from damage. Studies have shown that free-range eggs contained 67 percent and 40 percent more vitamin A, respectively, than cage bound mass produce unhappy hens eggs.

Vitamin E also also protects cells by acting as an antioxidant, in addition to promoting healthy blood and circulatory system function. Free-range eggs contain more vitamin E than their conventional counterparts. The “Mother Earth News” survey found triple the vitamin E in the eggs they tested, and Pennsylvania State University research found double the vitamin E in the eggs of grass-fed hens

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat known as “essential” fatty acids because the body cannot manufacture them on its own; you must consume them from food. Omega-3s are connected to heart health, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and other potential health benefits such as decreased risk of diabetes, stroke, digestive disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers and dementia. All three studies found higher amounts of omega-3s in free-range eggs versus conventional eggs. “Mother Earth News” reported the most modest differences, with the free-range eggs they tested containing only twice the omega-3s as conventional eggs, while the Penn State study found 2 1/2 times more.  Another Education study four free-range hens produced eggs with four times the omega-3s as their caged sisters.

So now that we agree on the health benefits of eggs lets talk about the cost of production. In order to move our ladies during their laying season we have to provide adequate shelter for their health and safety.

In order to offer something different than the mass produced egg where the hen is bound to a small cage with no access to fresh air, sunshine or grass, we like to provide them with fresh grass, bugs, and sunshine all day long.

We do this by using  a chicken tractor to house our girls.

To move this “Hen Hotel” takes man hours and fuel. We can’t move it by hand so we have to use our tractor or skid steer. This of course adds to the expense.

We also provide electrified fencing to keep them safe from predators like hawks, eagles and coyotes.

Just the other day Chad was able to “dispatch” one of those predators (the fury kind that love to use their teeth).

And when it comes to supplying food, we use the best feed we can find. Fresh pasture and plenty of all natural feed gives these hens what it takes to supply us with the jumbo eggs we offer. That kind of feed is costly and sometimes challenging to find.

You add distribution costs, FDA compliance permits and licenses and you see that there is quite an expense to getting fresh healthy jumbo eggs to our customers.

I could go on and on extolling the AWESOMENESS of that small oval chicken fruit. But I won’t. It is nice to know that with all the heath benefits that eggs provide, it also gives us a good protein for 33 cents per serving. Try to venture to the health food store and get the same vitamins, protein and omega-3 fatty acids for that price, not to mention…. have you tasted some of those vitamins?

Naturally Dyeing Eggs

I saw this article Fox News publish in 2013 and thought I’d share it with you. There are all kinds of info on dyeing naturally, so I’m sure you can find other dye created from natural ingredients so have fun.

By the way, the eggs we did this year are not all naturally dyed, mostly because we really like the color of some dyes. Some of the egg colors turned out stunningly beautiful with rich deep earth tones and that’s because they are brown eggs which gives all the colors a “jeweled” look to them.

9 Ways to Dye Eggs Naturally

The time has come to celebrate the age-old tradition of dying Easter eggs. For most families the historical ritual, symbolizing the renewal of life, will consist of hard boiling a dozen eggs, purchasing a few packets of PAAS egg dye and rounding up whatever stickers are in the house to slap on the pastel shells. While tradition is important in any household, why not mix it up this year and try making your own dye?

For over a century the FDA has been cracking down on artificial dyes. In 1950, many children became ill after eating Halloween candy containing Orange No. 1. The FDA found later the color was toxic. In 1976, the agency banned Red No. 2 because it was suspected to be carcinogenic. While food quality testing has come a long way, if you’d rather not take the risk, here are 10 suggestions for dying eggs au naturale.

Prepping

When you finish hard boiling your eggs, use the hot water as a base for your dyes. Pour the hot water into medium-sized bowls, one for every color. For each cup of dye, make sure to add 1/8 cup of distilled white vinegar to each color once the water has cooled slightly. This will ensure the color does not fade once it is on the egg. Remember, just because the dyes are natural does not mean they won’t stain your clothes. Wear latex gloves and old clothes and cover the surfaces where you are working with newspapers.

Blue

There are several ways to make the color blue. You can add a cup of blueberries into your bowl of hot water, let them sit for 10 minutes and then strain. Another method for making blue is to use one red cabbage, chopped into two-inch chunks, and leave the cabbage in the water until the water has fully cooled. Then strain.

Red/pink

The whole spectrum from red to pink depends on the amount of time an egg is left to soak. So, when making red dye, remember you also have pink at your fingertips. Red can be made from adding a can of sliced beets to two cups of boiling water with a teaspoon of vinegar. Let simmer for 10 minutes then strain the beets. The color can also be made from cranberries, although a bag of fresh cranberries has to be soaked in the water/vinegar solution overnight.

Brown

Don’t cry. The color brown is made from the skins of about six to eight brown onions, using only the dried brown parts. Let them soak in the water/vinegar solution until it turns a rusty brown and then strain. The color can also be made from adding 1/2 cup of ground coffee to the water/vinegar solution before straining.

Yellow

This cheery color is probably the strongest of all natural dyes. It is made by mixing three tablespoons of dried turmeric to your water/vinegar solution. The golden spice is a key ingredient in Indian curries and will leave a stain on nearly everything it touches. If the fear of having yellow fingers for days is too strong, you can always make yellow by simmering the peels of six oranges in your water/vinegar solution for 20 minutes.

Orange

The color orange is made from adding a tablespoon of paprika powder to your solution. Be careful, even the smallest whiff of paprika packs a lot of heat. If you are working with very young children, skip the spicy coloring and use two tablespoons of annatto seeds instead. Let them simmer for 10 minutes before straining the seeds.

Green

For a lighter green, add two tablespoons of green tea powder to your water/vinegar solution. For a deeper color green, use the skins from six red onions. Let them simmer in the solution for 15 minutes and then strain.

Purple

There are two options for making the color purple, one slightly more kid-friendly than the other. Purple is made from boiling a cup of either red wine or grape juice and adding in a tablespoon of vinegar as the liquid cools.

Gold

For making a bronze/gold dye, simmer two tablespoons of dill seeds in one cup of water for 15 minutes. Then strain the seeds and add a tablespoon of white vinegar.

The Lowly Crock Pot

For years we have relegated the lowly crock pot to the back of the pantry or to the bottom shelf in the basement. We pull it out when it’s time time make stew or cook an OLD rooster or hen, maybe we’ll cart it our for a pot roast from a stud bull who’s had happier and more productive days. Whatever your’re making for your families dinner (certainly not guests)  we just need it because we have to cook something LOOOOONG and SLOOOOOW.

That’s how I’ve used my loyal, energy efficient appliance until recently.

I started thinking, if I were selected to be celebrated on Tiny House Nation or if I were in the midst of a SHTF scenario where I could only have one appliance, would I choose Mr. Crock Pot, not crack pot; that would be all the other people RUNNING around in a SHTF scenario. Well, I don’t know, but I have discovered lately some other wonderful uses for this ceramic mini-oven.

I’ve been making and eating lot’s more pro-biotic foods. One of them is yogurt. Thanks to my friend Jody Gustavson Speck who told me how to make this really delicious yogurt in the crock pot, I now have one more use and this little discovery has elevated this humble kitchen appliance to another level in the culinary world. I’ll be showing a video on how to make this very simple, healthy and delicious pro-biotic food.

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Next, I’ve really enjoy making lacto-fermented vegetables. They are delicious, versatile and very easy to make. The other day I needed a vessel to start my veggie concoction (red and green cabbage, carrots, red onion, garlic in a lacto-fermenting brine.

I did’t want to use my 5 gallon crock for such a small amount and all my other bowls were used, plus I didn’t have a single quart jar in the house, so I reached for the next best thing to use as a veritable vegetable versatile fermenting vessel. Ha Ha… say that 3 times and I’ll send you a plethora of pickled peppers. As you can see it works really well. Of course I’ll put a weight on it to keep the veggies submerged under the brine for a few days then pack them in quart jars where they’ll continue on their journey toward fermented delights.

Finally this week I opened my bread book “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” written by Hertzberg and Francois. I highly recommend this book if your interested in making artisan bread which is easy and pretty darn good. I was determined to make this bread in the crock pot because 1. I had never heard of that and 2. I didn’t believe it.

Well I tried it and sure enough it performed like a champ. The bread was delicious, the crumb was airy and I was able to put a nice crust on top after sticking it under the boiler for about 5 minutes.

So am are talking about the lowly crock pot or a SUPER HERO VESSEL waiting to be called up to duty at a moments notice?

Would I consider this on the top of my list if I could only have one vessel? I don’t Know.

I’ll let you know after I’m done using it to wash all my dirty utensils I used in making all this delicious food.

Poly-Cultural Farming?

Someone asked me a while back why we started Gardens Spot Farms. I gave the usual answers, Oh it was something different to do. We wanted to eat better because wanted to feel better and I found the concept of poly-cultural farming interesting.

I just threw it out there when the next question came, “what the heck is Poly-Cultural farming”?

Hmmm, I hadn’t even realized I was throwing out some technical greeny phrase. it would be a good idea to have a way to explain this ancient but new way of raising animals on a small farm.

When we first decided to raise our fryers we were in the dark as to how to do it efficiently and humanely. We started reading volumes and volumes of information on chickens and what they eat, how they act on pasture or in confined spaces, etc. etc.

After all this reading and research it just seemed so natural to raise them how they’ve been living since the beginning of time.

Let them roam in the fields scratching for insects and grit to eat and to make sure they have plenty of grass and fresh water. Of course we augmented their food with peas, barley, hay and some natural vitamins. Let them do what chickens do which is what chickens do. So profound don’t you think.

What we discovered when we took them to as close as nature as we could while still protecting then were happy poultry, contented and I might add delicious.

We soon discovered other systems for raising and butchering chickens. Large commercial processing plants that if you saw them would shock you to your core.

What we discovered was the beginning of our paradigm shift. What we saw  happening in our food processing plants and the huge warehouse that held our future food destined for our table, truly made us sick and we decided there and then we had to be the voice of change and champions of a different way of life.

A better way to raise animals and a more humane way to get them to our tables. We made a move to a more natural way of eating, living and farming.

One of the great things about raising pastured poultry is that you have complete control over what your birds eat, where they spend their days and how they end their lives.

We Love the 4 Seasons

Being Papa at the farm, I do love to see the coming of spring when everything begins to wake up after a long winters sleep.

Wasn’t a hard winter, thank the Lord, it was and is very beautiful.

I also appreciate the quiet mornings when the forest and the fields give off that crisp and cold feeling and the air freezes as it’s pulled into my lungs. Sure makes that HOT cup of coffee taste pretty damn good!

Winter’s a great season for getting some family time in. Sitting by the fire with the grand kids, planning the up-coming year.

It’s the time when you slow down and appreciate what was accomplished last year. Healthy pasture raised chicken and pork in the freezer, potatoes and onions in the root cellar and hard cider ready to be enjoyed.

I must say the good Lord has helped us in our hard work and in our endeavors to live a more self sustainable life style.

I do love the winter but the winter solstace passes and the next thing you know spring!! Yes babies are popping up all over the place.

Pasture needs attention, asparagus and rhubarb need harvesting and the fences, always the fences need work. Thank God my son-in-law who’s young and strong and is the owner along with his wife (my charming daughter) and 3 kids can do the heavy lifting.

chicksOur little porkers arrived on Sunday the 18th.

Chicks arrived March 24th and our little porkers arrived on Sunday the 18th.

I’d like to sit down and have another cup of mocha but as my 3 year old grandson Jack says “Papa, let’s do it” He’s the one on the left next to Gus his brother. Looks like he’s ready.Jack and Gus - lets do it

Who doesn’t love SPRING!.

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