Check here for answers to the most commonly asked questions about our farm and products.
1. WHAT ARE PASTURED EGGS?
Common industry terms like “cage-free” and “free range” are becoming increasingly meaningless. The fact is, those terms are defined by big egg producers. The terms are meant to dupe the general consuming public into conjuring up an image of happy hens roaming around a prairie with a string of baby chicks following close behind. In actuality, birds in both of these systems spend their days inside, usually with hundreds of thousands of other birds. They have minimal space and very limited ability to express their chicken natures.
Pastured birds–on the other hand–spend all day, every day outside. They are free to:
- Forage for insects, grubs, and plants.
- Scratch, peck, fly, and run.
- Find cool places to lounge and dry places to bathe.
Our birds nest and roost in mobile coops (I built them on to flatbed trailer frames). Their coops are surrounded by portable electric fencing that keeps them in (unless they are feeling like an adventure) and predators out. We move them to fresh ground often. Left in the same place for an extended period, chickens are destructive to the existing plant life. We allow them to stay long enough to trim the grass, eat weed seeds, and drop some potent fertilizer but not long enough to completely eradicate all plant life or overload the ground with nitrogen.
2. WHY ARE PASTURED EGGS SO EXPENSIVE?
This is truly a case of “you get what you pay for!” A better question to ask is probably, “why are conventional eggs so cheap?” It is because conventional producers are able to stuff thousands of birds into a warehouse, use massive machinery that can wash and sort tens of thousands of eggs per day, feed the birds cheap food from questionable and non-disclosed sources, and slaughter birds that are past their laying prime (around 2 years) to make room for more productive flock members. Given the giant scale of operations, many tasks can be automated or performed very cheaply.
Raising pastured birds is a bit more labor-intensive. The chickens have to be visited several times per day to ensure they have food and water and are adequately protected from predators. This methodology also involves a bit more infrastructure as we don’t just throw thousands of birds together in a warehouse. The mixed-breed birds live in flocks of around 50. This mimics the natural flock size and allows them to express their social tendencies naturally. Each flock then, requires an entire setup: food, water, movable shelter, fencing, land, and treats. I have saved a bit of money by building the mobile coops myself, so we are able to offer these eggs at a lower rate than most who are selling similar products. There are no better eggs that are cheaper than ours, and no cheaper eggs are better!
3. HOW CAN I BUY YOUR EGGS?
You can always come by the farm and pick up some dozens. We’re a bit out of the way, and though it’s quite a scenic drive, you should plan on grabbing at least a few dozen to make the trip worth your while.
Drop-ins are welcome during daylight hours, but if you want to be sure that someone will be home (we have to run errands sometimes too!), shoot us a facebook message or give us a call before making the trek.
We are also always looking for small, independent grocery stores who would like to carry our eggs. As we have a limited quantity available, we may not be able to supply eggs to every store that wants them. Foley’s Produce in Maple Valley carries them and we’re working on deals at a few other places!
4. WHY ARE THESE EGGS STRANGE SHAPES AND SIZES? WHY DOES THE YOLK COLOR VARY?
Our birds are individuals. They are free to search out whatever food is most appealing to them. Diet is the number on factor that determines yolk color. While they are all given access to Naturally Free Organic Layer Feed, the individual plants and insects that they find through their foraging will impact the color of their yolks.
Being a small producer, every egg we get counts. We don’t throw out an egg because it’s a little “too” oblong or not perfectly symmetrical. We also don’t have eggs in large enough quantities to offer different sizes. We try to keep the size as consistent as possible in each dozen. And I always take the tiny ones out for our own kitchen.
5. WHY ARE A FEW OF THESE EGGS STAINED?
Again, small producer here. We don’t have the capital or revenue to justify a tens-of-thousands-of-dollars egg-washing machine that will scrub every single egg perfectly spotless. Every egg we sell has been washed by hand, in a sink, on our farm, by someone in our family. Although we do always keep the dirtiest of the harvest for personal use, we’re bound to miss a spot here and there.
In addition, I have yet to invent a way to train chickens to wipe their feet prior to entering the nest boxes. Since they live outside in the wet and muddy pacific northwest, they are bound to track in some of the outdoors with them when they come inside to lay. Some minor staining won’t affect the inside of the egg.
If you find an egg that is dirty to the point you are worried about eating it, bring it down to me. I’ll replace it with three clean ones. And, I’ll eat the dirty one myself!
6. DO YOUR CHICKENS EAT GRAIN? SOY? CORN? VEGETARIAN?
We’d love it if chickens could survive on grass alone. They aren’t ruminants, however, they are omnivores. They require more than what grass can provide. The feed we do provide beyond what they find themselves, Naturally Free Organic Layer Feed, is Organic, local to the PNW, certified non-GMO and humane, and free of soy and corn. It’s simply the best chicken food commercially available.
Also, chickens are not vegetarians. Some big egg companies advertise “100%” vegetarian diet. This is just pandering and the only reason it even needs to be mentioned is because there are egg producers that feed miscellaneous animal byproducts to chickens for protein content. Unless you consider worms to be vegetables, real chickens aren’t vegetarians.
7. CAN I COME SEE THE CHICKENS?
Absolutely. We want to be 100% transparent about what we are doing. We want to encourage you to discover where your food comes from and how it is grown. Please reach out via facebook messenger or our contact page to schedule a tour.
8. WHAT OTHER PRODUCTS DO YOU OFFER?
During the growing season, we offer seasonal produce as it becomes ripe and ready for sale. In the past, we have sold: heirloom tomatoes, carrots, kale, beets, garlic, and salad greens. We will try to keep the list of what is available updated as it changes throughout the season.
We have also sold cut dahlias in the past. This last year was pretty rough for dahlias, so we weren’t able to sell any, but look for their return. We’ll post about it if we happen to open up the roadside stand for cut flowers this summer.
In case you haven’t found the answer for your question please feel free to contact us, we are always happy to talk to potential customers, foodies, fellow farmers, or anyone else about what we are doing out here at Metz Meadows.