Saturday, November 29, 2008

what's wrong with the eggs in your 'fridge

Eggs is eggs...right?

Eggs are usually about $1.50 per dozen in the grocery store. They are all white. They are all the same size. It's all good. Until you have eggs from "Happy Chickens."

We were first introduced to the reality of "Happy" versus "Unhappy" by a friend of my parents' who has some hobby chickens near Oskaloosa, Iowa. She rehabilitates animals that have been orphaned, abused, abandoned, or just need a little help. Currently, there is a pitiful three foot tall baby owl following her around the farm crying for a chopped up squirrel. Yep. Land of Strange.

People buy chicks for their kids in the spring (so cute). But then lo and behold; they freaking turn into chickens. Happens every time. Chickens aren't so cute. So they get dropped off at the rehab center for farm-ish animals in southern Iowa. Last I heard she had about 60 orphaned chickens. They don't roam the whole farm, but their pen is bigger than my house. These aren't your normal hens, either. Some have blue mohawks. They are spotted like a dalmation dog, or plain brown. They are tiny or huge. They are a circus. It's all reflected in their eggs. The shells range from light blue to speckled brown right up to normal white. We love these eggs. In the spring and summer, the Happy Chickens yield thirteen dozen eggs every day. In the winter, they don't lay much at all. When the days become shorter than the nights, the hens rest. Commercial farms have artificial lighting, so their hens don't know about seasons. They lay 365 days year. They get tired faster. Tori, Zoe and I have discussed them. We decided that these must be some very unhappy chickens.

When the hens are resting in the winter, we don't have eggs from Happy Chickens. We have brown eggs from the grocery store that promise to be "free range." That's OK. But it doesn't compare to the beautiful eggs we have in the summer. It's one more reason to yearn for spring.

We made a trip down to Missouri this week to see relatives. My aunt is raising chickens and hers are still laying. So we ended up bringing home three dozen of her eggs from Happy Chickens.

The little girls made a note of the difference in size. Funny, Tori made this astute observation while wearing her New Pi shirt. Purely accidental. I swear.
There are lots of places that sell eggs from Happy Chickens here in Iowa. You just have to keep your eyes open for the little sign on the side of the road that says, "eggs."

If you don't feel like cruising around the country hunting for eggs, check out the selection at New Pioneer COOP. Don't even complain about the price. For goodess sakes. Do you want eggs from Happy Chickens for FREE? The folks at New Pi can even tell you which farmer they came from and reassure you that the chickens are in fact, very Happy.

Mother Earth News released a study a few years ago that claims free range eggs have:
• 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

Here's the link to the full study. Just in case Happiness of Chickens isn't a good enough reason for you.

I think this is a particularly interesting part of their story.
“What are free-range eggs? Free-range eggs are from hens that live outdoors or have access to the outdoors. The nutrient content of eggs from free-range hens is the same as those from hens housed in production facilities with cages.”
It’s amazing what a group can do with a $20 million annual budget. That’s what factory-farm egg producers pay to fund the AEB each year to convince the public to keep buying their eggs, which we now believe are substandard.

Go get some Eggs from Happy Chickens!