Posted by: A Part of the Solution | August 22, 2010

Not in my Hen House

I’m on a tear re: Big Ag. The commercial concerns have tainted the well for small farmers, diversity farmers, sustainability farmers, and family farmers (most of whom fall into more than one of the categories above). As I write, there’s been an egg recall for salmonella which has spread to two different egg farming consolidators in Iowa. We’re talking about 500 million eggs here–a half a billion, in fact.

These packing operations gather eggs from flocks averaging 75,000 birds in size. The magnitude of that statement absolutely boggles my mind. We have a total of thirteen chickens roaming our home acres and then some. We talk about doubling the laying flock size, then we would have about twenty five birds. And that sounds like about how many I can envision having their way with our home turf. Clearly, these big flocks aren’t free ranging, since it would take miles of farm land to hold so many unrestrained hens.

Our hen house is not comparable to the ones in which the eggs with the salmonella problem are laid. Our hens are in there only to sleep, eat or lay. Even in bad weather, the flock prefers to huddle in disgruntlement under the back porch or the antique lilac bush, or even in the bottom of the barn with the pigs. Like any animal getting enough fresh air, change of habitat, and right attention to bedding management, our hens aren’t incubating half a dozen diseases or being treated ‘preventatively’ with antibiotics to head the disease vector off at the pass.

Our feed for the chickens is ground to order for us at the locally owned feed store, the one with the same name as the road on which we live. It doesn’t come from China. It doesn’t come from another hemisphere. It doesn’t come from outside the time zone. And it’s fresh. It’s not heat-treated. It’s not pelletized. It’s just local matter ground up. And it’s not really the bulk of their diet. Bugs and microbes and seeds and compost leavin’s and grass and little, tiny pebbles are far and away the larger proportion of the chicken diet on my farm.

Why am I explaining all of this? Why am I annoyed at Big Ag, again? Why do I sound slightly defensive? Because Big Ag has made sure that ‘safe egg’ warnings are issued as blanket statements. To hear the cautions attached to eggs, you have to wonder how it is we survived our ancestors’ ignorance. They ate eggs from their farms for generations upon generations. And eggs were considered the best food for invalids, especially lightly cooked, or raw eggs frothed into various rich concoctions.

My eggs are like that: vectors of health and nutrition. They aren’t rife with latent disease cultures. They aren’t imbued with antibiotic content. Their shells are about four times as thick as a ‘commercial egg’. The yolks are a deep, deep golden orange. And these eggs are shelf stable for up to six months, if turned end-to-end once a week over that time. Stop treating my eggs like they have plague, and enjoy them. They’re safe now, and always will be.



  1. *standing ovation*

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