Chicken Confidential: Local Foods Part II
photo credit Ashley Hockenberry (forgot my camera in St. Paul)
I'm told that supply is an issue for local foods.
We had our first 1 dozen egg day yesterday!! We have reached the point where we are producing more healthy, local eggs than we can eat. With 38 layers we are on track to produce about 190 eggs per week or 15 dozen. They are as "free range" as a chicken in the winter wants to be, eat corn grown on our farm and shelled by a couple of three-year olds on the kitchen floor (note to parents-- little boys love to shell corn and it can keep them busy for minutes at a time!!-- oh but then there is the mouse problem what with corn everywhere).
So now we are trying to find an outlet for our eggs. We eat 3 dozen a week. We have family who will take another 3 dozen per month. I've started to talk to local places about selling them. The results:
1) local grocery store. Tried for a couple weeks, then said "no" very nicely
2) local restaurant. No.
3) neighbor-- can't abide eggs with bright orange yolks (what's with that??)
4) Trotters restaurant in St. Paul. Yes. So Trotters will buy eggs for $1.50 per dozen. 15 dozen per week would be $22.50 per week. The drive, however, is 360 miles round trip or about $180 in mileage reimbursement. I do travel to the Cities often and could drop them off at Trotters. My $22.5 would buy me lunch with a friend or a box of muffins for a staff meeting-- nice quality of life goodies, but not efficient or sustainable farming.
Finding each of these eggs is a treat. The kids and I actually saw one of the chickens laying an egg-- like it was planned. Her face to the wall, snuggled in the bedding-- you could see her settle in and fluff up to lay that egg. So there are many joys and lessons in growing our own food, apart from any economic motivation. But we would like to figure out how to get our eggs into our community.
My other motivations are in "continue reading" cuz it ain't pretty...
I'm putting this here because it isn't really for public consumption.
Some years ago Mike and I lived in Iowa where he worked for a corporation with a subsidiary managing animal waste. I was serving as an environmental protection commission for the State. So we both had unusual access into the egg production industry.
Mike went to an egg production plant where there were millions of layers in long bunkers-- as cruel as anything you have read. He dubbed it "chicken Auschwitz." Mike, a farm boy with zero sentimental feelings about farm animals, was sickened by the treatment of those animals and even HE couldn't eat store bought eggs for months.
At the same time, as an environmental protection commissioner I toured a factory where the laying hens were produced. I looked upon the machine that culled out the male chicks-- it was a vacuum where they sucked up the chicks, ground them live, and then they were processed into feed and fed back to the mothers. I saw this with my own eyes. We have established an industrialize ag systems that is brutal.
In my opinion-- if you are going to do ONE THING to help promote a healthier, more ethical food system, it would be to eat free range "happy" chicken eggs. The world is a better place for that extra $1 per dozen you spend on the free range eggs.
So, I am happy to offer eggs from chickens who are treated as farm animals and not as biological cogs.