The Good Egg

Elizabeth Thompson

Elizabeth Thompson › Elizabeth Thompson is a writer and photographer. She lives in Alaska with her husband and their ...

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When I was a sophomore in high school my class got the job of restocking an egg farm to raise money for prom. The old laying hens had to come out and new chicks installed into the stacked cages. The old feces-encrusted chickens, legs broken from pulling them through the too-small doors of the cages, were packed into plastic crates, shoved into a semi-truck and shipped off to a soup factory.

Restocking took days and all of us were walking the halls at school coughing and hacking from the ammonia and dust inside the chicken warehouse. After “work” my parents made me undress in the garage – I smelled that bad! Needless to say I have not eaten chicken soup since.

So, if I was going to pay a premium price for organic eggs while always wondering how long it had been since they were laid, why not have the fun of raising them myself?

Thinking back on this,  I began to wonder about eggs… was the high-price I was paying for organic eggs shipped to my island village in Alaska worth the price? Was there really a difference?

YES.

More than 90% of eggs sold in the U.S. are from factory chickens. They are fed feed that contains both antibiotics and roxarsone (an arsenic-based additive used to promote growth) which are found in their eggs. Eggs from pastured hens, on the other hand, don’t contain these undesirable elements… although they do contain twice as much vitamin E and 2.5 times more total omega-3 fatty acids than the eggs from caged birds.

So, if I was going to pay a premium price for organic eggs while always wondering how long it had been since they were laid, why not have the fun of raising them myself? Backyard chickens are all the rage so there is a wealth of information available on how to do it.  We selected Buckeye hens from a farmer in Ohio and, one week later, 13 brown eggs arrived in the post (check out the slideshow to learn more!).

For us it has been a thoroughly positive experience. The chickens eat the slugs that seem to breed faster than rabbits in my garden, their poop is a wonderful addition to my compost pile, the eggs are unquestionably better than store bought (and I know exactly how fresh they are), and collecting them is FUN!

Find a backyard chicken rancher near you, many are happy to trade or sell some of their bounty!

Do you raise your own chickens and eggs?

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Thompson