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Ingredient Spotlight: Happy Chicken Eggs

This dozen comes from my "egg guy", a hobbyist who raises about 24 hens in his yard. The egg on the left side of the plate comes from one of his chickens while the one on the right is produced commercially. You can see that the egg from the happy chicken has more white and a darker yolk than the other one. The yolks will become even richer and deeper in color as the weather warms and the chickens have more insects to eat. Another benefit of getting eggs from happy chickens? You can reuse the cartons repeatedly before recycling them!

When I think about eggs, I think of two things: the controversies surrounding them (their nutrition, cost, and the health and well-being of the hens); and then, my own experience.

I’ll leave it to you to do your own in-depth research. But as for me, I love eggs. There is nothing quite like the rich, dark yolk of an egg from a happy chicken.

To me, a happy chicken is a chicken that gets to be herself. She has a comfortable coop to sleep in that’s well-maintained. She has a fenced-in area where she can feel safe. That’s important because chickens are emotional creatures. If a fox or raccoon help themselves to some of the flock, the other chickens will stop laying eggs until the threat is gone.

A happy chicken also has clean water to drink and a wide variety of food available—whether that’s some grain and seeds, bugs, or even leftover people food. Seriously, I once watched a program on an urban egg hobbyist who fed her chickens leftovers from a Thai restaurant.

Finally, a happy chicken has room to groove. To spread her wings. To get out of the coop and pick at the dirt.

So what do you get with a happy chicken? Really delicious eggs with a depth of flavor that is just not found in their mass-produced counterparts.

Now, I’m not necessarily knocking commercial eggs. With them, you get consistency in size. You can find them everywhere from supermarkets to gas stations. And 2015’s egg crisis notwithstanding, they’re usually pretty inexpensive. However, when I buy commercial eggs, I’m willing to pay a bit more—or even a lot more—for eggs that are labeled Pasture-raised, Certified Humane, or Certified Organic because the hens are treated better. And that’s important to me. Even if I’m paying five or six dollars for a dozen humanely-raised eggs at the supermarket, I’m able to feed four people from that dozen. That’s a pretty good value.

But what’s even better is finding an egg hobbyist or small farmer who raises his or her chickens with love, compassion, humanity, and thoughtfulness. You may live in an area like I do where such people advertise their eggs at the end of their driveways. You may be able to get such eggs from a local farmers market or join a CSA (Community-supported agriculture). You may even be able to raise a few chickens yourself (get at least three—they need their social sisters).

Now, are there cons to getting eggs like these? Yes. Sometimes, the eggs are different sizes. You may get a really small egg or a really large one. Or, you may find a small feather or a bit of dirt on your eggs. Or, you may not be able to get the quantity of eggs you want because the hens may have gone on strike for a reason you don’t understand.

But if you make peace with the ambiguity of getting your eggs from happy chickens, suddenly, you are connected intimately to your food. You have become a part of the ebb and flow of nature. And in my experience, that’s pretty cool!

To the Egg!

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