Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Latest Food Find: Affordable Local Free-Range Eggs!

I'm thrilled about my latest adventure in hunting down affordable local foods: some awesome free range eggs from a small-scale local producer.

If I had the choice, my preference would be to keep my own backyard chickens to have easy access to fresh eggs from happy chickens. Unfortunately, it's currently illegal to keep backyard chickens in my city, and while the issue is currently under debate, I'm not sure it's going to be resolved any time soon.

So, while I wait not-so-patiently for a verdict on backyard chickens, I've been hoping to find some good local eggs that were affordable enough to buy on a regular basis. We just can't afford to shell out over $6 a dozen for the ones at the grocery store! I was Skyping with an American foodie friend one night recently and lamenting that I couldn't seem to track down eggs from a small local producer. She mentioned that one of the ways she has found some of the smaller local food producers in her area is by looking on Craigslist, and suggested that I do a search on Kijiji to see if anything came up (Craigslist is not really active in my area). Well, sure enough, I typed in "free-range eggs" and a few different options popped up! I zeroed in on one listing that was located closest to us and also gave the most information about their eggs.

After a flurry of texts back and forth between the"egg lady" and my husband, we set off on Saturday afternoon to acquire our first non-supermarket-purchased eggs. Here is what we came home with:

We had originally requested 3 dozen chicken eggs, but she didn't have that many available so we came home with an interesting mix of eggs from three different kinds of birds. The top carton is a mix of different coloured chicken eggs. The two large eggs in the bottom carton are duck eggs, and the small speckled eggs are quail eggs. We paid a grand total of $4.50 for all of these eggs, which is ridiculously inexpensive for the quality of the eggs. They are not "certified organic", but they are definitely from happy, free-range chickens. We were told they receive organic feed (as well as whatever insects, greens and other goodies they munch on while they're wandering around) and no antibiotics.

 Aren't the quail eggs just gorgeous? I'd never seen one before! They look so much like a work of art that it's almost a shame to eat them...

 

We got to visit the birds while we were there. Here are some of the lovely ladies who laid our eggs:


This hen is known as an "Easter Egger" and is the one who laid the greenish coloured eggs:


We also got to pet a turkey while we were there! Specifically, this friendly female:


 She stuck close to us the whole time we were wandering around her turf, kind of like dogs sometimes do :)

It's pretty neat to meet the birds that laid your eggs!  As we were getting back in the van to come home, I glanced up and noticed that a whole parade of birds had followed us out of the yard. By the time I thought to snap a photo, the little crowd of fowl had already started to disperse, but it was awfully endearing in the moment. Our two boys, who declined the offer to come with us to get the eggs, have been busy showing them off to all their friends (with accompanying "oohs" and "aahs"). After we showed them pictures of all the birds, I think they wished they had come with us after all. Maybe next time they will decide to join us.

When I was making a blueberry clafouti for breakfast on Sunday morning, I couldn't resist an opportunity to do a visual comparison between one of our newly acquired eggs and a grocery store egg:


Can you guess which is which? The free-range egg is on the left and although it's not as dramatic in the photo as it is in person, the yolk of the free-range egg is definitely much darker than that of the grocery store egg.

One of the advantages of buying directly from food producers (aside from knowing a lot more about how the food was produced) is that you often end up with a more eclectic and interesting selection of offerings than you would at the grocery store. I doubt I ever would have purposely set out to buy quail or duck eggs, but since the opportunity presented itself, it's fun to explore these less familiar options. I was told by a friend that duck eggs make particularly moist and fluffy baked goods, and the muffins we made with one on Sunday do seem to have turned out particularly well. We still haven't cracked open the quail eggs, but I have plans to use them in a potato hash later in the week. It's a pity none of us like poached or fried eggs as I suspect the quail eggs would make really quaint little versions of each!

While this method of purchasing eggs is certainly not as convenient as grabbing them from the neighbourhood supermarket, it's definitely a lot more fun and interesting. Plus, it's good to know we are helping to support a local young couple (even if it's just in a small way) and that these are well-treated, happy birds supplying our eggs.

Have you made any great local food discoveries lately?

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1 comment:

  1. I have been buying eggs from my egg lady for the last 4 months. I found her on Craigs List. They are $3/dozen and worth every penny!! So YUMMY!! In the summer she gets around 5doz a week (that's a lotta chickens lol). I've gotten my mom and friend hooked as well. Can't wait to hear how the quail eggs are.

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