Unless you are a vegan, eggs are a ubiquitous commodity in most people’s
refrigerators. Eggs are one of the more versatile foods, quick and easy to prepare and
are an inexpensive source high quality nutrition. No matter how mundane, this most
basic of food items should never be taken for granted.
I had my own epiphany last fall while preparing and enjoying an olive, scallion and
provolone omelet made with local eggs. I have been eating organic, cage-free eggs for
the last three decades but nothing prepared me for this experience. At first crack, the
superior qualities of these eggs were apparent. The hard, mineralized shell would have
been the envy of any DDT-era raptor. The rich, sunny yolks were regally propped on
their albuminous cushions and the taste was the epitome of farm freshness.
Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge of Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre are the
organic alchemists responsible for transforming the humble, plebian chicken egg into
the apogee of egg-dom. The mystique surrounding these exceptional eggs was
unveiled once I found out how their pampered pullets were raised on the farm. Two
breeds of certified organic chickens are at the heart of this farmstead enterprise
White Leghorns which lay white eggs and Golden Red Comets that lay brown ones.
The key is that these chickens get to live their lives as, surprise, chickens. The way they
are raised is a world apart from the de-beaked, antibiotic-addled, cramp-caged,
feathered automatons of the commercial egg industry.
From October to March, Many Hands chickens are completely free ranged and
reside in a permanent hen house that they return to at night. They have free access to
the farm during the day and scratch under leaves and brush for worms, insects, seeds
and any other edibles they come across. April through October is the growing season
at Many Hands. The chickens live in moveable range pens that are relocated each day
and positioned on verdant organic pasture and harvested produce plots. The fertile
soil of the pasture land and cultivated gardens is teeming with biological activity, a
balanced ecosystem augmented with additional compost and supplemental minerals.
Throughout the year the Many Hands chickens have access to Nature’s Best
Organic Layer’s Feed which Julie considers to be the finest available. The feed is a base
of organic grains and soybeans that is fortified with limestone, diatomaceous earth,
probiotics, vitamins and minerals. As if that wasn’t enough, Julie soaks organic wheat,
barley and oats in a kelp and mineral broth for 24 hours and then sprouts them for five days.
The chickens are getting fresh spouted greens every day, even during the winter
months. Free access to kelp meal, crushed oyster shells and wood ashes (for dust
bathing) rounds out the regimen at the swankiest chicken resort in Massachusetts
A premium organic farm egg is going to cost more than a mass produced factory
facsimile. One of those fancy Seattle-style coffees will run you about $4.00. For 56
cents you get a local jumbo organic egg packed with 8 grams of complete protein,
vitamin D, choline, lutein and zeaxanthin. A few years ago Mother Earth News did a
nutrient comparison between typical supermarket factory eggs and their pastureraised counterparts.
The results were astounding: pastured chicken eggs had 1/3 less
cholesterol, 2/3 more vitamin A, twice the omega-3’s, three times the vitamin E, 4-6
times the vitamin D and seven times the beta carotene. Many Hands eggs are
delivered fresh to the store each week- wouldn’t you say it’s time to get cracking?