Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Growing Good Food: Eggs with Expression

Joel Salatin, the Virginia farmer who features prominently in food films like Fresh! and prolifically authors books with titles like Holy Cows and Hog Heaven, likes to say that healthy happy chickens need the freedom to express their "chicken-ness."

Echo Jones and her mom Sherry supply eggs to Ranch Foods Direct and a visit to their farm reveals a cornucopia of fowl (ducks and geese as well as chickens of at least eight different breeds and a rainbow of colors) reveling in dust baths or water puddles or snuggled into shady nesting spots or even nurturing each other's babies (one particularly maternal hen adopted a set of ducklings.)

"Their diet is healthier because they are getting more natural things to eat. We let them run wild and their instincts take over," says Echo, an animal lover and high school junior who aspires to be a veterinarian or zoologist. (She'd love to study animal behavior someday.)
Other animals around the farm include goats and kids, calves, pigs and — new in recent weeks — a huge litter of fluffy Great Pyrenees puppies (aka future guard dogs.)
The first-time mother actually delivered 16 babies, which Echo says is not unusual for young Pyrenees females. 

You'll see the results of all this healthy self-expression at the Ranch Foods Direct store in the form of dozens of carefully cleaned and packaged multicolored eggs in a natural array of sizes, with crackly shells and thick deep golden yolks, eggs that just beg to express their eggy-ness in an omelet!