Early spring brings longer, light-filled days, bursts of growth in the farm field and increased egg production in the barnyard. It’s an opportune time to consider the good fortune of the pasture-raised hens at Glaum Egg Ranch. Our feathered girlfriends at Glaum are genuinely free to roam their range. That freedom means good health for the chickens. And superior eggs for Freshness Farms.
You’re probably familiar with free-range eggs. The words are stamped liberally across carton upon carton stacked in the grocery refrigerator case. If not free-range, eggs are touted as cage-free or make other claims that imply happily-ever-after endings. When I picture free-range, here’s my daydream vision: sprightly hens scamper across the open landscape of the barnyard at will, feeling the warmth of spring’s sunlight on their backs as they peck at green plants and tiny insects in the dirt — free and natural as domesticated birds could be. These are not animals crammed into restrictive cages, unable to move or flap their wings (glimpses we have witnessed through the reporter’s lens — the unseemly side of factory farming). We believe that the free-range bird, by contrast, lives as a hen should live — as it has every right to do. And this is why we seek the label on our egg cartons.
In reality, what free-range implies is not necessary what’s delivered. The USDA regulates the term minimally and only as it applies to poultry — not egg — production, requiring that “poultry has been allowed access to the outside”. That’s all. No mention is made of how much access, quality of living conditions or treatment of the animals. The wording grants producers wide latitude, and it is possible that free-range birds may actually live in over-crowded conditions where free movement and outside access is severely restricted — though technically allowed. Not quite the idyllic scene we picture. Even worse, for eggs, there is no regulation of free-range, or any other label. However minimal.
This does not mean that farms using the free-range label skirt humane practices. Many producers follow the true spirit of the words. As a consumer though, it’s tough to distinguish the good guys from those less honorable. Thankfully there’s help — a label that can be taken at face value: Certified Humane Raised and Handled. Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), a non-profit, industry-independent organization, awards the Certified Humane label to producers who demonstrate humane practices throughout the entire production process — providing proper nutrition, sufficient space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress. Glaum Egg Ranch, a third generation family farm, was the first major California egg producer to be certified in this way. The Glaum ranch includes 40 acres, and their goal is to “provide above-standard conditions to protect the health and welfare” of their chickens.
Humane treatment is not just crucial for the flock — it impacts us at the dining table. Hens that spend their lives crowded in cages, unable to engage in natural behaviors, tend to be over-stressed and prone to disease. They are routinely fed prophylactic antibiotics. Just as healthy soil fosters healthy vegetables, it follows that healthy chickens lead to healthy eggs. Eggs that fuel our good health. Check out Freshness Farms’ website for ordering details.
Glaum hens are provided vegetarian feed to support full nutrition for healthy laying. The difference between organic and non-organic eggs lies in the feed. California Certified Organic Farm (CCOF) eggs are laid by hens that receive certified-organic feed.
Brown versus white:
Egg color is determined by breed. Hens that lay brown eggs do not produce white eggs and vice versa. There is no nutritional or taste difference between the two.
These eggs come from hens fed an Omega-3-enriched diet — usually flaxseed or seaweed. Glaum’s pastured hens receive Omega-3 nutrition naturally from the green plants they eat and this is passed on in their eggs. Though Omega-3 eggs are higher in Omega-3 content, eggs laid by pastured hens are nutritionally superior overall. Think of it this way, infant formula is higher in iron than mother’s milk, but mother’s milk provides superior overall nutrition.
Eggs are a good source of selenium, iodine, Vitamins B2, B5, B12, D and phosphorous, as well as low-cost, high-quality protein. Eggs contain choline and lutein, substances important for healthy brain function, and that protect against inflammation and age-related vision problems. The conventional wisdom regarding egg consumption is changing. Recent studies show that individuals on healthy diets can eat 1-2 eggs per day without experiencing any measurable change in blood cholesterol levels.
Recipes for the Week:
Best Hard-cooked (not boiled) Eggs –
Have you ever wondered why hard-boiled eggs turn out rubbery — with chalky yolks? The answer is that eggs actually like gentle cooking — not hard-boiling. Turn off the heat. It’s that simple.
Place fresh eggs into a saucepan and cover with water by at least one inch. Bring to a full boil over high heat. Turn the heat off, cover the pan and leave on the burner for 12 minutes. Remove eggs from the pan, place into an ice-water bath and cool.
Try these peppy Deviled Eggs loaded with the fresh herbs of spring. They’re perfect for an Easter buffet or loaded into a picnic hamper, ready for a spring outing.
How about a thick slice of custardy-soft French Toast? Just right for Sunday brunch — though you’ll make room on the weekday dinner menu, once you’ve had a bite.
A hearty Italian frittata loaded with fresh greens and potatoes creates the basis for a simple dinner or weekend brunch. Add a green salad and you’ve got a meal.
If you haven’t already, try these root vegetable hash browns featured last week — they’re the perfect destination for this week’s rutabaga. Toss in some fresh chopped herbs too.
Tuck healthy carrots into these moist muffins. You can substitute canned pumpkin for the sweet potato, if you like. Carrot-Sweet Potato Spice Cakes
Quick Tips for this Week’s Freshness Farms Bounty:
Cut broccoli into small pieces. Add dried currants, minced onion, toasted nuts and sliced grapes. Toss with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Add some crumbled feta or blue cheese before serving.
Serve a tossed herb and mixed green salad using the week’s harvest — chopped dill, arugula, cilantro, kale and romaine pieces. Toss with balsamic vinaigrette, sliced oranges, broccoli and carrot.
Follow the recipe for deviled eggs above, but instead of stuffing the egg halves, chop them and mix with the yolk mixture. Spread on white bread and serve for high tea.