Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Egg

Okay on to the egg itself. I once got a call from a woman who was looking for eggs, but she only wanted the ones with white shells because they tasted better. I have to say I don't know of any taste difference, that being said I tend to like the brown eggs- something more earthy about them, and not as clinical as the white. You might even run across a farmer selling blue eggs. The color of the egg is bred specific, I am not aware of any one bred of laying hen being healthier than another. As far as the color of the egg is concerned I think an egg is an egg.

Living with no running water or electricity in the house, it was so important to us to have a clean hen house. A clean hen house provided us with clean eggs, we rarely washed eggs. I know you are shocked, maybe even grossed out at the moment. However eggs are laid with a protective protein coating called a bloom. The bloom is a natural barrier that prevents bacteria from entering the egg and also reduces moisture loss keeping the egg fresher longer. An egg that is not washed and still has it's bloom could stay fresh in the fridge for 6 months.
One egg has 6,000 to 8,000 pores, once that bloom is removed think of all the bacteria that could get into that egg.

When we raised our laying hens we would clean nest boxes at least once if not twice a week. This way the eggs would be mostly free of debris. We rarely washed our eggs. It is important to ask your farmer if they wash their eggs. Another thing to think about is how they wash the eggs. I am not sure but it would seem to me using hot water to wash eggs would open the pores pushing bacteria in, if we washed eggs we used cool or cold water. Also I can't imagine any reason to use soap, I would think that the soap would be pushed into the open pores.

When buying fresh from the farm eggs, you should ask when the eggs where collected, the expiration date is 4 weeks from when they are collected. That is not to say that if the bloom is still in tact that they will not stay fresh longer, but I think it is peace of mind knowing how old your eggs are. Also hard boiled fresh eggs do not peel easy, they need to be at least two weeks old before they will peel. If you have ever hard boiled a fresh egg you know peeling it is so frustrating, half the white part comes off with the peel. The egg literally looks massacred!

Let's talk chicken food:

Raising hens on pasture cut our feed cost substantially, with the hens getting most of what they needed from the grass we only substituted their diet with grain. In the winter time the grain was the main diet and we substituted the rest of their diet with hay, and scraps. Our grain was not organic, which was a question that we were asked often. At our farm we supported local, we felt that if we supported local, locals would support us. In the area that we lived farmers were not growing organic grains nor was our local feed mill selling organic. The same is true for non-GMO, as much as we would have preferred non-GMO our local farmers were not growing it, nor was our local mill supplying it. This is where I think that the consumer needs to take more responsibility, as a farmer we did not have the time or the money to research and find a place that we would be able to buy organic or non-GMO feed. But as a consumer your job is to make demands if more demanded organic and non-GMO more farmers would grow it. If we did use organic or even non-GMO feed it would have had to be shipped in costing us double if not triple what we were paying for local grain. That cost would have to be passed on to the consumer.

I think it is very important to ask what feed your farmer is giving to the hens, and if you find someone who uses organic or non-GMO ask if it is from a local co-op or a local farm. I do believe organic is better but beyond that I believe local is the best.

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