How to buy farm-fresh eggs

Farm-fresh eggs from pastured hens taste great and are a boon to your body. Here's where to find them and how to cook them

Creamy Baked Eggs with Asparagus and Pecorino
Serve these smooth, rich-tasting eggs as soon as they come out of the oven, with toast.

Poached Eggs with Smoked Trout and Potato Hash
Poaching is a fast, easy way to enjoy the flavor of fresh eggs. They’re served over a simple oven-roasted hash.

A fresh egg from a hen that spends most of its time pecking around in open pasture is a wonderful thing to eat: deeply flavorful, with a bright yellow (sometimes almost orange) yolk and a tender white.

Besides flavor, pasture-raised eggs seem to be better for you too. Several studies suggest that they’re higher in omega-3s and vitamins A, B12, and E and lower in fat and cholesterol.

The difference, according to Jo Robinson, author of Pasture Perfect (Vashon Island Press, 2004; $15) and founder of eatwild.com, is in the chickens’ feed. “Fresh grass is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids. Eggs from chickens raised on good pasture have an intense yellow-gold color, most pronounced in the spring and early summer, when the grass is at its peak.” The shells, though, can be any color. Whether brown, white, or blue, they simply indicate the breed of chicken, not what it ate.

In the supermarket, you’ll see “cage-free” and “organic” eggs, but these labels don’t specify feed and don’t necessarily mean that the birds spend time outside. “Pasture-raised” isn’t a government-approved definition, but it’s generally accepted to mean that the chicken got most of its nutrition from foraging, with some grain to supplement. Although these eggs aren’t widely available in stores, you can often find them at farmers’ markets. Pick up a dozen and treat yourself.

Next: Buying eggs ― Quick facts

 

Buying eggs: Quick facts

Pastured

What they are: Laid by chickens that spend most of their time outside, foraging on grass and insects

Price: Up to $7 per dozen

Where to find them: Farmers’ markets; farm stands; a few markets (see localharvest.org or eatwild.com for sources near you)

Commercial

What they are: Laid by chickens typically fed a blend of grains, soybeans, and vitamins; birds are often confined to cages

Price: About $3 per dozen

Where to find them: Any grocery store

Next: Eggs farms we like

 

A good egg farm

At Eatwell Farm in Dixon, California, four laying flocks of about 500 birds each are moved weekly to fresh fields of alfalfa, pecking away busily while their manure fertilizes the soil. It’s a happy symbiosis. The hens also get organic grain and organic produce from the farm. “Every day, whatever vegetables get rejected when we’re packing the [CSA] boxes go to the chickens,” says owner Nigel Walker.

The consensus among Eatwell’s customers is that the eggs ― whether because of superior flavor or better nutritional profile ― are worth the price. “A lot of people tell me they get these eggs for their children because they’re more nutritious,” Walker says. “But they also tell me that they’re the only eggs their kids will eat.”

Egg farms we like
All these farms sell pasture-raised eggs; they also employ organic practices.

Chaffin Family Orchards, Oroville, CA Eggs available daily by the dozen or half-dozen at the farm, several times a week at farmers’ markets in Butte County and Nevada City, and at Chico Natural Foods, in Chico (you must join this co-op to buy). 530/533-1676.

Eatwell Farm, Dixon, CA Most of the farm’s eggs go to its 900 CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscribers in Northern California; to join, fill out an application at eatwell.com (in some places, you’ll be added to a waiting list).

Everett Family Farm, Soquel, CA Eggs available daily at the farm stand and at Santa Cruz–area farmers’ markets.  831/566 0472.

Marin Sun Farms, Point Reyes Station, CA Buy eggs at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, the Civic Center Farmers Market in San Rafael, and the farm’s store. 415/663-8997 (call ahead to check that eggs are available at the store).

Sea Breeze Farm, Vashon Island, WA Eggs sold at Seattle-area farmers’ markets and at the farm’s Vashon Island shop and restaurant, La Boucherie. 206/567-4628.

 

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