Real food shoutout: Eggs from The Country Hen
So in my quest to find pastured/healthy/real eggs I came across quite a few stumbling blocks that I didn’t expect. I wanted to find a local source of eggs from actual free-ranging, dirt-and-bug-pecking, organically-fed-when-needed chickens. I have not found that yet, at least not in any of my local stores (big or independent). I’m going to check out a new farmer’s market this weekend, ever hopeful. I know such eggs are to be had around here, I just have to find them.
So until then, I buy eggs at the store. I said ok, I want cage-free eggs (hopefully actually cage-free, as in not in a cage and able to roam like an actual chicken) that are NOT “vegetarian fed.” Because, and this is the kicker and the New Thing I Recently Learned…
Chickens are not vegetarians.
Chickens eat bugs when left to their own devices. Chickens eat bugs and peck at dirt and even cow patties. Such things create naturally healthy birds (no antibiotics needed), and healthy birds produce eggs with superior nutrition. You can even see the difference in egg yolks (I’ll post a pic tomorrow; I forgot to snap one this morning while making breakfast).
All this is new to me; I’ve only discovered it in the past month. I didn’t realize until recently that “cage-free” eggs are too often not actually free-roaming chickens; they are still crammed into small spaces yet have “access” to yards they rarely use. I didn’t realize that “vegetarian fed” means they are given soy. I believe soy to be an incredible danger to our health, and I now avoid it at all costs, something that’s hard to do—and after what I went through trying to avoid peanuts, MSG, HFCS, and all their variations (resulting in just not buying anything premade/processed), any time it is hard to avoid something put in food, because it’s put into everything, a big ole’ red warning flag starts waving like mad in my head (oh hey wait, maybe that’s why I used to get dizzy spells years ago…blood sugar problems yes, but it might also have been all those red warning flags! Eek!) I also didn’t realize that “regular” eggs are so lacking in nutrition as to make them a mere shadow of what an egg is supposed to be. But now I know, and can make better choices.
Ha! If only it were that easy!
I went nuts last week trying to find non-vegetarian fed, free-range eggs! Soy & vegetarianism are still so much a part of “healthy” thinking that even my local, independent natural foods store only carries eggs that are “vegetarian.” Aarrgghhh.
But then I got pleasantly surprised at my local Publix. They just started carrying The Country Hen eggs…I saw the little containers and was intrigued. As you can see from the pic, the label says, “sunlit barns and porches.” Well, that’s not roaming around the countryside, but it’s closer than being crowded into a small space. Nothing on the package said “vegetarian,” either. So I decided to buy a package and check out the company.
Wow, was I pleasantly surprised! The egg’s shells are nice and thick and the yolks are that lovely deep orange color they get when the chickens are healthier! The company apparently can’t let their huge flocks roam due to predation and (government) fears of bird flu from wild birds, so they came up with these big “porches” for the birds to use to be able to roam & scratch and, well, be chickens. Nice compromise! They also make their own chicken feed, and while they don’t disclose what goes into it, and I’m a bit nervous that there is still soy in it, the eggs speak for themselves. The farm looks lovely & well-cared for, I like the attitude of the company toward their operation (they even sell bags of compost from all the chickens—if I lived near them, I’d so be buying up a ton of it), and these eggs are the closest I’ve found to looking like actual farm eggs.
The downside is that they ain’t cheap. My Publix only carries the half-dozen packages, so my egg budget has had to expand a bit. Also, these eggs are not local; they are shipped in from up north. Not ideal. But—until I find a local source, I would rather support a good, small company that is producing better food. I figure the extra I pay for the eggs is a way to vote with my dollars for what I want. I also consider the price a “health care premium.” And since I don’t buy any processed/convienence foods, the money I save there can go to better eggs. If you ever see this brand for sale, definitely try them. :)
For more reading on why pastured eggs are superior and worth the money, check out this post or this one. There are tons more out there, too.
In the words of Julia Child: Bon appetit! ;)
Hi Sara! Nice blog, I will be coming back to look around soon. I just wanted to pop by quickly, I’ve got to run out the door. But I am going to come back and read some of your writing. It looks like a lot of great stuff. Thanks for visiting my blog, and nice to meet you!
Hi Raine! Thanks so much for stopping by! I’ve been loving all the great articles on your site, too. So glad to find another kindred soul! :)
Hey, I am not sure what type of area you live in because I just found your blog(I will be back too) but if you don’t live in the city you may have luck with what I do. I don’t have the time or energy to raise my own chickens. Not to mention the idea of being woken up by a cock-a-doodle-doo when the sun comes up is not appealing to me at all but a local lady who lives a quarter of a mile away seems to enjoy it. In exchange for small favors like carring for her dog while she is away or allowing her to pick lilacs and fruit from my backyard she is happy to share her extra eggs with me.
I know how the chickens are raised and while they dont roam completly free they do have a very large fenced in area where they can maintain all of their natural behaviors and the yokes are a delicious bright orange!
Hi Sara! Long time no virtual see! Nice to hear from you.
Um… y’all do realise that it’s the feedstock that makes the yolks yellow or otherwise, don’t you? A truly free-range bird has lovely yellow yolks from all the carotene and flavinoids in her diet, but an indoor bird will lay orange yolks too if you put some orange dye in her feed. Even organic eggs can be made orange by adding some powdered marigold petals to the mix.
I’m not sure about the porches thing… sounds too much like a barn with one open (but netted) wall!
Hi Jennifer! Actually, if I *could* have chickens, I would in a second, lol! I’m pretty sure I can’t, though (but am trying to find out…they make such things difficult in this old subdivision). I am also trying to find a local egg source; hitting a CSA this weekend to inquire, although it’s an hour’s drive away (but the closest to me). I wanna just put a few hens in the backyard sooo badly…hehe.
Hi Hedgewizard! Dern it you had to go & burst my porched bubble, didn’t you? lol! I did know about the food creating the better yolk…I did not know about colors being added to create them. Seems I should have suspected that. Argh! This company’s farm looks pretty decent & clean, but since they don’t disclose exactly what’s in their feed…aaarrggghh again. Although, I gotta admit, powdered marigolds seems a lot less worrisome than soy…lol.
Crossing my fingers for what I can find this weekend at the CSA…if they don’t know a local source, which would be horrific, I swear I really will just go rogue and get my own chickens. Of course, that would be an insane adventure considering that this old neighborhood supposedly has “gang activity” (according to a cop) and I know it has drug activity…so hey, outlaw chickens are probably just what it needs…
Hi Sara, or shall I say Cyberdelia?! Interesting post on eggs. I’m with you that ideally my eggs would come from free roaming, happy chickens eating insects, cow stuff or whatever they naturally consume. I have found myself buying the expensive “organic” vegetarian, “free-range” eggs at the store, but I still have that sinking feeling that I am not supporting the best cause. I need to stop being lazy and check out the local farmer’s markets around here. My dream is to someday own my own chickens but for now it’s apartment city….
Either is fine! :) Yeah, the problem with “vegetarian” fed eggs is that they give them soy, which is a whole other ball of wax. I’m trying to avoid all soy, but darn it if it’s not hard to do (it’s even in Ezekial sprouted bread!). If you can find local chickens, that’s ideal! I’m still trying to find some too; I might have to drive quite a bit to find them, and my budget is so tiny now that I keep hoping I don’t have to blow my gas budget to get eggs. This is why I’m trying/investigating store brands, so I can find the best choice until I am able to make weekly drives for local eggs (sadly with development & traffic around here, I’m 1-2 hours from anywhere even slightly “rural” enough to produce eggs). And since there isn’t huge demand here for organic/local/natural food, stores within a normal range don’t carry hardly any. I can’t wait to move out of urban sprawl!
I too have been having an egg dilemma for the past few years. Researching and trying different sources for eggs from happy healthy chickens…thanks for all you information. My next step is to find a local source here in Las Vegas…Hmmm Dunno’ how that will work out.