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Introducing the Grass-Fed Egg Movement

10/6/2009 9:20:14 AM

Tags: eggs, poultry, chickens, Robert Plamondon

Grass fed eggs

I'm trying something new: starting a "grass-fed eggs" movement as a way of promoting great-tasting eggs from happy outdoor hens. People have become cynical about the term "free-range," which often doesn't mean what people want it to mean. Everyone wants free-range eggs to be eggs from happy outdoor hens who have something better than a barren yard to forage around in, but that's not what they get. So I'm hoping my as-yet unsullied "grass-fed eggs" term will fare a little better.

You probably already know that grass-fed eggs are the best-tasting eggs ever, have superior nutrition and are environmentally friendly. And the flocks are way more picturesque, aesthetically pleasing and fun than the alternatives. But lots of people don't know this yet! It's an easy sell, though. We just have to spread the word.

I picked the term "grass-fed eggs" because it doesn't quite make sense — eggs don't eat grass, or anything else, for that matter. So when people see the term, they have to ask about it. (Of course, it's the hens that eat the grass, not the eggs.) The cartoon was chosen for the same reasons: to evoke the idea of happy outdoor eggs (or maybe chickens) in a way that has some appeal, but which still makes people ask the question.

Once they ask the question, we can pony up the answers without boring them. Much better than button-holing people and talking to them about eggs when they haven't asked!

I don't like rigid definitions, so my take on grass-fed eggs is that the ideal is "great-tasting eggs from happy outdoor chickens who get lots of fresh green plants to eat." But mostly the key is to acknowledge the ideal, while doing the best you can under the circumstances. It's hard to have grass-fed eggs or happy outdoor chickens when there's 6 feet of snow on the ground. It's hard to have free-range hens in a suburban backyard. Do the best you can, and don't let people tell you that your approach isn't pure enough.

This is also my answer to the supply-and-demand problem. Hardly anyone is making a living from growing grass-fed eggs, so consumers need to hook up with people who are doing it as a sideline — or raise a few hens of their own. The small scale of most operations blurs the difference between consumers and producers: many people have hens some of the time, but not always. So this is not a consumer movement or a producer movement, but a "people who like grass-fed eggs and happy outdoor chickens" movement.

One of these days, someone will figure out a business model that allows people of ordinary ability to make a living at grass-fed egg farming. When that happens, the eggs will become a lot easier to find in stores. But that hasn't happened yet. Not even close. I certainly haven't quit my day job! So let's start with the problem in front of us: popularizing the notion and hooking up consumers and producers. With enough demand, commerce on a larger scale will follow.

To help get the ball rolling, I've ponied up three sets of resources:

  • A website at http://www.grass-fed-eggs.com. This is the clearinghouse of information that's coming from me. It's still sort of skeletal, but check it out anyway.
  • A discussion group at Google Groups. This is the clearinghouse of information from everybody who cares about grass-fed eggs: producers and consumers. Topics will include how to find grass-fed eggs, how to sell them, backyard housing, predator control, dealing with neighbors who don't like chickens, and so on. Post your questions here!
  • A line of Grass-Fed Egg merchandise. As I already mentioned, when someone sees your "I Heart Grass-Fed Eggs" T-shirt, shopping tote or mouse pad, they'll ask you about it. This gives you the chance to give them your spiel and maybe press some eggs into their hands to ensure their conversion. It's also a good way for people who are already sold on the concept to identify each other. We're pretty scattered!
    Anyway, check out the website, the discussion group and the goodies. I'm hoping we can change the world one egg at a time, with a totally grass-roots, non-hierarchical movement. I expect it to be great fun.


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Post a comment below.

 

lornacroft
8/15/2014 2:49:11 PM
Here the livestock facilities are expanding day by day. It is important. http://www.grafwebcuso.com/

casper
5/22/2014 4:02:09 AM
People have become so used to all those chemical treated eggs and chicken that we need articles like this to spread out awareness among them. It was really good read that was given here. I liked your new agenda on Grass-Fed Egg Movement http://www.fashionforplay.com

Kevin_1
10/15/2009 5:45:03 PM
Kartik, you asked, "I wonder if Joel Salatin's method of "completing the circle" requires feed, or if access to sufficient land with insects and grub can be enough." Salatin, uses a custom blended feed to supplement his layers. Here it is in quantities to make a ton. It can be reduced. Roasted soy beans 617# Ground corn 596# Cracked corn 398# Crimped oats 219# Feed grade limestone 99# Nutri-balancer 60# Kelp meal 11# Something else I do is hang my Japanese beetle traps so that the beetles fall into the hen-house or field pen. The birds gobble 'em up and it takes care of that problem as well.

Kartik Srinivas
10/15/2009 9:14:12 AM
Thanks! I like the idea of marketing eggs like this (avoids co-opting possibilities by large-scale agribusinesses, who've watered down terms like cage-free and organic). Question: I haven't *yet* started raising (grass-fed) eggs, but plan to sometime in the near future. I've been having a long conversation with a vegan friend. We come from similar vantage points (recognizing the horrible nature of factory farming, read Omnivore's Dilemma, prioritize local foods, etc.) but I've argued that we should therefore opt for local meat / animal products along with plant-based foods, while he feels the environmental impacts, even of local, are greater than for local plant-based foods and should be avoided. One point he's made is that, as far as we both know, even "grass-fed", local, chickens are fed some kind of purchased feed that could often include non-local / non-organic grain (or, even if "organic", could come from questionable sources). So, having these chickens is indirectly supporting "unfriendly" / non-local farming practices, perhaps similar to the grain demands for large-scale feedlot operations and CAFOs. I asked a farming family member, who agreed that she doesn't know of anyone who raises chickens without feed, but I wonder if Joel Salatin's method of "completing the circle" requires feed, or if access to sufficient land with insects and grub can be enough. Obviously, chickens could exist in the wild, so there's got to be a way. Thanks for any answers! Kartik

MT Mi Mi
10/14/2009 11:26:36 AM
GREAT IDEA!! I'm so sick of going to the store for eggs (when my local resources are moulting), and reading the "propoganda" they're trying to sell as grass fed. I hope it catches on. A great way to circumvent another regulation, and get the desired result! I raised some day olds the last 2 years, and they were out on grass as young as possible.

Kevin_1
10/14/2009 8:22:29 AM
Two years ago I started grass feeding my hens and broilers on our 7.5 acres a'la Joel Salatin's methods after hearing him talk at the homeschool convention here in Richmond. There are only three of us at home, but we have 12 Buff Orpington layers which give us more eggs than we can possibly eat. We started giving some away, then word started getting around at church and among our friends so we decided to charge for them. I am incubating 2 dozen more right now which will hopefully give me enough pullets to double my laying stock. My 7yr old loves to go to the henhouse in the morning to gather, and often comes back after an afternoon trip with another handful. I had one hen that gave me over 300 eggs last year.

Scott W. Franklin
10/8/2009 10:42:59 AM
Good comments. I also am wondering how to make grass-fed eggs a practical concern. Portable open bottom pens are labor intensive. Free ranging birds, not the same as "free-range", are subject to predation and are not making the most efficient use of grass pasture. Joel Salatin's multi-use model comes to mind, sandwiching laying hens between cattle and broilers, but, as a stand alone enterprise, I don't see how grass-fed eggs could compete.

Sunny480
10/8/2009 10:15:31 AM
While it's true that grass-fed eggs don't lend themselves to industrial production, there are farmers whose chickens are producing eggs as a serious section of their integrated small farms. I refer you to Joel Salatin, who has written a book called "Pastured Poultry Profits - net $25,000 in 6 months on 20 acres". His focus in the book is broilers, but he does cover larger scale pastured egg production (larger than backyard production). Not monstrous scale, like the industrial egg production, but reasonably good sized.










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