Eggs fresh from the farm from happy chickens just taste better than factory-produced, supermarket eggs. The yolks are a darker yellow hue and the texture is creamy and buttery. This, of course, is all contingent on the conditions in which the chickens are raised.
Now there are different types of labels when it comes to eggs that can tell you a little bit about the poultry. Organic, cage-free, free-range, and pastured are just some of many. The label organic means that the chickens are prohibited from being injected from hormones and drugs, although debeaking and force-molting is permitted under this definition.
Free-range, while it prohibits cages, allows hormones and antibiotics to be used and there's no rule for overcrowding. Cage-free means the chickens can spread their wings, but they don’t have access to the outdoors, hormones are allowed, and sick hens are not required to be treated. Pastured-raised chickens are probably your best bet. The term means that the chickens roam on grassy pastures and are supplemented with a diet of bugs, but even this can get disconcerting because there are no formal regulations behind this label.
Yeah, it’s complicated, and yeah, these eggs are more expensive than what you buy in the store. But for many people, its worth the added expense — and it is possible to find egg vendors around town who are committed to raising chickens ethically and happy. Here’s a round-up of five of our favorites.
“If you show me an egg, I can tell you who laid them,” Jordanne DerVaes of Urban Homestead says. Urban Homestead, established in 1985, is an urban microfarm in the heart of Pasadena, occupying a 1/10-acre space. The family is completely vegetarian and the chicken are all heritage breed. The homestead has been raising chicks since 2002. “For the chicken to lay an egg, it’s the equivalent of a human being giving birth to a nine pound baby,” DerVaes says. “My chickens live longer because we don’t force them. They’re happy and spoiled and they all have names.” The poultry, all 13 of them, are raised primarily on kitchen scraps and fruit and are supplemented with a GMO-free pellet feed from Northern California. There are no animal by-products in their diet. You can get Urban Homestead’s eggs on their website, from their front porch on Sunday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and via Good Eggs for $17.99. 631 Cypress Ave, Pasadena; (626) 844-4586.
Lily’s Eggs in Fillmore is a 25-acre farm just north of Santa Barbara in the Los Padres foothills. Owners Robert Troppe and Diane Tuomey have over 150 hens who have access to a whopping three acres of open pasture. The chickens share the farm with animals Troppe rescued from a petting zoo— if you make your way up there, you’ll see a collection of turkeys, ducks, geese, goats, emus, pigs, and even a donkey. Chickens graze on rose bushes and receive supplemental, non-GMO organic feed free of soy and corn. You can buy the eggs at the Ojai, Hollywood, and Santa Monica farmers markets for around $6 a dozen or they can be ordered online from Farm Box. P.O. BOX 50351, Santa Barbara, CA 93150; (805) 657-4638.
Dare 2 Dream Eggs
Dare 2 Dream is a chicken and egg specialist located in Lompoc, California. The hens are pastured in 40 acres of rye grass, buckwheat, flax, clover, and sunflowers. The garden is grown pesticide and herbicide free. Owners Jeremy and Megan Raff are dedicated to popping out multi-colored eggs for the Central and Southern California region and if you’re interested in your own backyard chicken coop, they have an entire program complete with chicks and handcrafted infrastructure, that can get you started. If you’re in the Greater Los Angeles area, they will deliver the chicks to your front door for $30. Eggs can be purchased at Lassens Natural Foods or online, at Out of the Box Collective. They’re priced at around $7.75 for a dozen. 890 Lasalle Canyon Rd, Lompoc, CA 93436; (805) 735-3233.
Jose Luis Jaime of Jaime Farms lives in Chino, but he owns a 20-acre property in Yucca that has close to 600 free-range birds. And it’s not just chickens; there are geese, ducks, emus, goats, pigs, rabbits and a horse. Luis and Ruth Jaimie keep their poultry in outdoor pens large enough for waddling, and because they are in the desert, the birds are fed a diet of veggie scraps because — well, there's no grass in the desert. The family supplies three farmers’ markets in the Coachella Valley and six in the greater Los Angeles area. You can find their multi-colored eggs at the Santa Monica farmers market on Wednesdays or the South Pasadena farmers market on Tuesdays. 4016 Francis Ave, Chino, CA 91710; (909) 364-9400.
Apricot Lane Farms
Apricot Lanes is a biodynamic farm in Moorpark. What that means: nitrogen-rich manure and absolutely no artificial compost. The farm is located on 200 acres of countryside and they specialize in avocado, lemons and apricot trees. The heritage breed chickens eat eggs and worms and are free to roam on wide open grassy pastures. They are not fed hormones, antibiotics, soy, or GMO products. You can get their eggs on Good Eggs for around $13.99 a dozen. 10700 Broadway Rd., Moorpark, CA 93021; 805-523-4444.