What to look for when buying eggs
I just checked Craigslist for fresh eggs - there are quite a few people out there advertising! What is the most important thing to look for from a supplier?
- access to running around outside (access to bugs/etc)
- organic feed
- natural pest/disease control
- marigold added to feed for brighter yolks (one farmer told me this...?)
I've never had a choice before - I just figured my egg supplier was "better than the grocery store" but now that I have options for *really* good eggs I might as well get the best I can
Never heard of the marigold thing...darker orange yolks are supposed to, as far as I'm aware, signal a higher nutrient content, and this marigold thing just sounds like a way of someone essentially "dying" the yolks so that people think the eggs are superior.
Anyways, I always look for chickens that have lots of room to run around, and some grass. Here in AZ you find lots of people raising chickens in a really crowded dirt lot-type things. I wouldn't worry too much about organic--if the chickens are running around eating bugs, then I would think that's the most important thing, and a little bit of conventional feed won't be a big deal.
I raised chickens for years. As a kid I had hundreds of them and spent hours observing them. In turn, they apparently decided I was 'theirs' because they'd constantly perch on me and croon at me. They can be surprisingly affectionate and personable.
The biggest thing I look for is - Are the beaks clipped? Chickens have a strict 'pecking order' - literally. If their beaks are clipped it's because they are raising too many of them in too small of a space and they have to keep the beaks clipped to keep the dominant birds from mutilating the non-dominant ones over nests, food, etc. Also, I look for naturally nested. Having a nest, or access to a nest, means a great deal to a bird and means they're not laying under stress (which shortens their laying years and produces weak, runny eggs). Then I look for free range (although if you have the first two - this is generally the case). And finally I might look to see if they're omega3 enriched.
Good question!! I have a farm that I love getting eggs from locally, but it's a hit with the farmer's markets (for good reason, they're the best eggs I've ever eaten) and distribute to natural food stores in the area that have a $2/doz markup, so they don't always have eggs for everyone. It's crazy--back in GA we were lucky and could get free range eggs thru our CSA from chickens that the local 4H kids were raising for $3-4/doz, whereas best price I've seen for anything "public" (city farmer's markets, natural stores, etc.) has been $5-7. I saw a sign just down the road from us advertising "FREASH EGGS _.00 DOZ" (the first # is missing) but there's a factory breeder farm on the same street so I'm dubious. :/ I got some "backyard eggs" from the local farmer's market (not as swanky as the city ones) and the eggs were not even edible--sure, they were supposedly from Aracunas hence the blue shell, but they smelled old and ran all over the pan--the yolk just disintegrated. I'm now having severe trust issues with eggs...
I raise chickens for meat and eggs. I use a standard feed from the local feed store. My birds have full access to a 5 acre field and the eat bugs, grass, weeds, etc. The yokes are a thick golden color and have a wonderful flavor. The access to the outside and the ability to eat grass, bugs etc is what gives small farm raised eggs their increased nutritional value. Be wary of big box grocers eggs that have "free range" on the label... To be able to label their eggs "free range", comercial growers have to give their birds "Access" to the outside... this could be a 50X50 plot of grass outside and industrial hen house. Check out the Buy Fresh Buy Local group in your state for information on local growers.
It's the greens in the bird's diet that means (naturally) yellow/gold/orange yolks. I have my own chickens so I know they're very spoilt and happy