When Nicole and I first started researching various elements of the livestock part of our operation, it was important for us to know the real truth about what we were getting into. Do chickens moved from paddock to paddock, allowed access to fresh air, grass, bugs, and sunlight actually produce better eggs? It was clear that the answer was yes, but is it worth the cost?
"Factory" or "Industrial" chicken farms produce large quantities of eggs. The birds they use are a hybrid chicken, developed to lay massive amounts of eggs and handle living in a wire caged that is so small there is no room to turn around. Chickens have their beaks trimmed so that they do not peck at one another due to stressful conditions. To add to the awful conditions, these poor hens have lights on them 16 to 17 hours a day, artificially stimulating the hens' biological rhythms of reproduction. After a certain period they are forced to molt, which deprive birds of food and water for up to three weeks as a way to stimulate egg-laying in hens whose bodies are already exhausted and completely depleted. It is a literal assembly line for egg production. The result - cheap eggs.
Our flock is diverse. We have 6 different breeds of laying hens. Some are heritage breeds and some are cross breeds. Each has certain attributes that help complement our egg production on the farm. It gives us a wonderful spectrum of egg colors which look beautiful in a carton. (Actually, seeing the dark orange yolks is even better.) We have some that are better all around layers, some that lay better in the summer and some better in the winter. Our hens are allowed to rest in the winter and production of eggs will certainly slow down because of it. That's OK. It's the way God intended.
For any small farmer, eggs are not the greatest profit maker. What some folks don't understand is the 4-6 month investment into a hen before the first egg even comes. Feed and labor are the biggest expense along with bedding for the brooder when they are chicks. We move our hens to fresh paddocks weekly. This requires a huge time investment. The electric fences have to be moved, the grass has to be cut underneath the fence, and then the Eggstream is pulled in along with a trail of happy hens. There is nothing cheap about the eggs they produce.
We still get, from time to time, the "$5.00 a dozen?. I can buy them in the grocery store for .99 cents." That's true. You can buy them for around a dollar per dozen at the grocery store. The saying "you get what you pay for" definitely holds true here. I will put the taste and more importantly the nutritional quality of our eggs up to a grocery store egg every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
I know I have posted this before, but I'm going to add it again. This is a study performed by Mother Earth News. According to Mother Earth News (motherearthnews.com), tests were conducted on 14 flocks around the country that free ranged on pasture and were rotated frequently to maximize access to fresh plants and bugs. They found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial, "conventional" (i.e., from confined hens) eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture contained on average:
• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene.
This data speaks for itself.
Why do we do it? Because we know the health benefits of nutritionally dense foods and how it helps the body fight off illness and disease. Eggs, even at $5.00 a dozen, are one of the least expensive ways to get good quality protein. "Eggs can also help protect eyes from disease and degeneration, improve cell function, help prevent breast cancer and promote healthy hair and nails." According to associatedcontent.com.
We certainly understand folks that are on a tight budget are least likely to spend money on a more expensive food when a cheaper alternative is available. It's a choice. A choice to eat healthier, feed our children a better diet, and possibly prevent disease. Are you, or more importantly your children worth better food? I think so.