Farm-fresh eggs have gorgeous orange yolks and a delicious, rich flavor. We spoke to Craig Haney, Livestock Manager at Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture, about the benefits of buying eggs directly from a farm or farmer’s market. Read on for tips on what to look for, how to store and how to serve these good–make that great–eggs.
What are the benefits of buying eggs directly from a farm or a farmer’s market?
Having a relationship with a farmer, and having the opportunity to support practices that are important to us individually and collectively (animal welfare, the chicken’s diet, etc.). Access to fresher, more nutritious eggs – plus, you are supporting a local economy and landscape.
When one shops for eggs, it seems like there are so many varieties: Pastured, free-range, cage-free, vegetarian-diet, grain-fed, all natural…what do they all mean?
What are the chickens fed on the farm at Stone Barns Center? What is their routine?
We feed our chickens certified organic grain (a mix of corn, small grains, soybeans and flaxseed) purchased from a mill close to Stone Barns Center that grows most of their grains nearby. Being pasture-raised, our hens also forage for fresh grass and insects. They live in movable houses we call “egg-mobiles” where they can roost and lay their eggs. The hens spend their days foraging around the pasture and taking “dust-baths” to stay clean. We move them to fresh paddocks every 3 days.
What should you look for when buying farm fresh eggs?
You should look for pasture-raised, if possible. The grass diet helps give the yolk a deep, beautiful orange color. They should be free of cracks and fresh (eggs can be sold as “Fresh” for up to 30 days from the time they are placed in cartons–or 45 days if a “use by” date is applied). If you can get them within a few days of being laid, they are even better – another reason to develop a trusted relationship with a farmer or farm. Interestingly, it’s actually better to have eggs that are a week old or so for hard boiling. The pH changes, allowing the egg to peel much more easily. Hard boiled eggs with a dash of salt are a perfect snack food!
What is one dish you think you should absolutely always use farm-fresh eggs in?
Over-easy eggs …whether for breakfast or over a bowl of rice and greens for dinner.
How should you store the eggs? How long do they keep?
In the refrigerator. Eggs, if stored properly, can keep for more than 6 weeks after they’ve been laid.
If you can’t make it to the farmer’s market, what is the next best kind of egg to buy?
I’m most interested in animal welfare, so I would suggest those labeled as Animal Welfare Approved, the certifying agency for the Animal Welfare Institute. There are a lot of certifying organizations these days and each has their own standard. Unfortunately, one has to be sure of the certifying organization.
About Craig Haney:
Craig Haney’s family has farmed for eight generations in the foothills of the northern Catskills. To promote the connections between farming, food and our culture, Craig founded Skate Creek Farm, a pasture-based, organic farm that raises poultry, veal, sheep and swine. As a farmer and the shipping coordinator for Meadow Raised Meats, an association of family farmers who raise their animals on grass, Craig connected people with their food through restaurant, on-farm and Internet sales, as well as farmers’ markets. Since coming to Stone Barns Center, Craig has managed the Center’s livestock program, which is built on respect for the animals’ distinct qualities, as well as their environmental heritage.
About Stone Barns Center:
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a non-profit farm and education center. Stone Barns operates an 80-acre four-season farm and is working on broader initiatives to create a healthy and sustainable food system. Through the Growing Farmers Initiative, children’s education programs, and diverse public awareness programs, Stone Barns Center aims to improve the way America eats and farms. Stone Barns is open to the public year round, Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. To learn more, visit www.stonebarnscenter.org or facebook.com/stonebarns.