Barry Estabrook, who writes Gourmet magazine’s “Politics of the Plate” column says that the Humane Society intends to pressure McDonald’s to switch to more humanely raised eggs. The group intends to introduce a resolution at the fast-food company’s shareholder meeting in May asking McDonald’s to use so-called cage-free eggs. The chickens that produce eggs for high-volume users like McDonald’s are often housed in cramped cages, a practice the Humane Society says has made chickens “the most abused animals” in the food business.
You won’t see any cages when you visit the chickens at Upper Meadows Farm. Leonard believes in pastured poultry, i.e. letting chickens roam as Mother Nature intended them to. He’s expanding his flock of egg-laying chickens this year to include Black Sex Link, Red Sex Link, Golden Comet, Ameraucana, and Barred Rock hens. (Yes, the names of the first two threw me for a loop, too. As I understand it, they got their names because you can tell by their coloring when they are chicks whether they are male or female.)
The eggs that these lovely ladies produce are one of the most wonderful things that I have ever eaten. Crack one on a plate, and the yolk stands in a high mound, with the white clinging tightly around it. The first time I ever brought home a dozen last year, my little guy tried one fried. A few minutes later, he appeared in the kitchen asking for another–scrambled. And when that one was gone, he tried to get a hard-boiled egg.
The eggs aren’t part of the regular CSA share, which Leonard keeps vegan. They aren’t cheap, and based on what he told new members at the Verona meeting last month about the rising price of organic chicken feed, they are likely to be even more expensive this year. But I discovered something interesting when I began using Upper Meadows eggs last year: One filled me up way more than two supermarket eggs.
Nothing ever entirely fills small boys.
UPDATE 4/11: It’s not just my imagination. Thanks to another Gourmet blog, I found a 2007 analysis of eggs from pastured poultry that showed that the have:
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene!