Comparing Eggs: How Do Yours Stack Up?

Whether you live in the city or country, here’s how to find healthy, delicious, farm-fresh eggs — and even raise a few happy chickens of your own.

| April/May 2007

Buying eggs has become complicated. It’s no longer just a matter of choosing between white and brown, large and extra large or even organic and conventional. Now there are “omega-3,” “vitamin-enriched” and “cage-free.” The prices on these “designer eggs,” to use the industry term, can top $4 a dozen. And then there’s “free-range” and “certified humane,” labels that imply the producers treat their hens better than others do.

It’s true that some eggs are healthier, tastier and more environmentally friendly than others, but despite all the label claims, it’s often difficult to know exactly what you’re getting with supermarket eggs. Many of those claims are unregulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), leaving it up to the consumer to discover their meaning (see How to Decode Egg Cartons). What’s a shopper to do? One strategy is to learn about the different companies (how big are they? where are they based? who are the stockholders?) to help you decide which you prefer to support. Another is to find a local source for fresh eggs, or even to get a few chickens of your own and declare your independence from the supermarket egg case.

In rural areas, suburbs and even cities nationwide, more and more people are discovering that keeping a few hens takes no more effort than keeping a dog, and that they can have eggs as good as or better than the priciest eggs in the grocery store — and have fun doing it.

Raising Urban Birds

Mad City Chickens is a case in point. In April 2002, Alicia Rheal and Bryan Whiting had been keeping half a dozen hens in a small coop behind their house in Madison, Wis., for almost a year. One day, an animal control worker showed up.

“Apparently, someone was concerned we were going to eat them,” Rheal says. The animal control worker admitted he wasn’t sure of the city’s rules on chickens and referred them to a zoning officer. The zoning officer said that while city ordinances permitted any number of chickens to be kept inside a house, outdoor poultry were prohibited. “He was really nice about it, though,” Rheal says. “He suggested we try to get that changed.”

So the Rheals gave away their flock and decided to see what they could do. They got in touch with a city council member and began talking to neighbors. They wrote an article for the local newspaper, asking for support. Before long they had uncovered a thriving “urban chicken underground,” dozens of people across the city who were quietly keeping chickens and who were only too happy to come out of their shells.

zhai whirlston
10/18/2012 7:35:58 AM

seed oil press Glad to be here and learn about this.

3/2/2011 8:59:17 AM

I want to know how to convince a 14 yo daughter that home grown chickens are a good source of meat. Much better than Wendy's.... She wanted chickens last year, we had some great eggs... until dogs came and visited... After we lost the first 4 birds out of the original 7, the dogs didn't come back for a while...Never the less they got 2 more and we refortified the coop and got two more grown chicks. A coyote got them a short time later. But my question is that my daughter is steadfast that she doesn't want to get them to be meat birds. I try to explain that with the price of food and the benefits of knowing where they come from and that they were given a good life... but she really doesn't want to even consider the benefits.... I was thinking as the bird ages out of laying time, that they could become meat birds. I'm at a loss. I've never harvested a chicken. I imagine it won't be the most pleasant thing I've ever done. One of the coyote's victims I had to wring their neck. Is there some way to reason with her or overcome her objection? Or do I just go old school and "its the way its going to be and thats it". This is my daughter and I DO see where this world is going...And there will be far more people needing to be self sufficient in order to stave off hunger in the future.How does 1 keep kids from thinking chicks are pets??? "I'll eat grass before I eat one of our chickens" This could have huge ramifications for us in the future...

8/15/2007 1:23:47 PM

I, too, would like plans for the pyramid-shaped coop pictured in this article. Do you have them? Mother Responds: We do not have this plan, but the photo shows all of the wooden pieces and the wire fencing necesary to make it the size that works best for you.

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