The more pasture grazing, in other words, the more greens, bugs and seeds the chickens consume, the more healthful the eggs and the deeper the “egg flavor.”
Why are these eggs so expensive though? I mean, the food in the pasture is free, right?
There are many costs that go into producing eggs: chicks, bedding, heat, waterers, fencing, and housing to name a few. It takes about six months for a hen to reach “laying age” during which time there are not any egg sales to offset costs.
The largest cost, by far, is the feed. The grass and bugs are not supplying all of the calories needed to sustain the hens. Supplemental feed is necessary, and feed costs have more than doubled in the past decade alone. When the math is done, the small farmer cannot afford to charge much less than $3 per dozen just to break even. And that doesn’t include labor.
For more insight on this topic read Josh Vaillancourt’s blog about “Small-farm egg-onomics” on their family farm in Saranac (wovenmeadows.com).
This pricing issue is a good lesson for any of us when we try to compare local market prices to supermarkets: small farms are not operating on economies of scale. Our local farmers desperately do not want to price themselves out of the market, but they are also trying to make a living. If we prefer that our local farms stay in business, we must be prepared to pay a bit more for the products they sell. Healthy, thriving farms enhance our communities, and help preserve the way of life we value here in the Adirondacks.
Laurie Davis is an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Essex County and is the coordinator for Adirondack Harvest. Reach her at 962-4810, Ext. 404, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.