Eggs? Yes, eggs. This week is National Farmers Market Week, and while the bulk of what you see piled high on tables at your local market is more flora than fauna, here and there you'll likely see neatly stacked cartons of farm fresh eggs. In some cases, it's a secondary crop for local farmers who have the land for a decently-sized flock of cage-free chickens. But here is something to think about: next week is also the one-year anniversary of the Iowa egg recall. Remember that? 380 million eggs that had been transported all over the country, many of them in California, had to be destroyed due to salmonella contamination. Which really brought the importance of eating local close to home.
Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, the epicenter of the recall, is one of the nation's top 10 egg producers, with a colossal chicken flock that rivals the of population of Los Angeles. The cause of the contamination was likely “unsanitary conditions” (really?). That can happen when you have 15 million birds, even if they aren't packed into battery hen cages and fed hormones to keep them laying. In addition, just prior to the egg recall, the company plead guilty to animal cruelty after Mercy for Animals filmed the living conditions of chickens at their primary production facility.
The response has been, “well okay, I'll buy from my local farmers market,” because at least there you know where the eggs are coming from, how the hens have been treated, and what they've been fed. But here's where it gets tricky. Generally speaking, you'd be right, however the recent raw milk raids conducted at Healthy Family Farms revealed, “[Sharon Palmer] was buying thousands of dollars worth of meat, poultry and eggs from other vendors and reselling it at farmer's markets… despite claims and advertising that it was raised on her farm and not fed commercial feed.” (originally reported by Patch) Too bad it took a government raid to reveal it. They've been vendors at the Sherman Oaks, Ventura, South Pasadena, Moorpark, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica (Arizona and Virgina Park), Calabasas, Ojai, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Larchmont, and Hollywood markets long enough to develop a pretty loyal following.
Do you have to go that far to ensure your egg's origins? Of course not. This is where common sense and friendly farmer relations come in handy. After all, the USDA recommends that during National Farmers Market Week (and frankly all year long) you make the effort to “know your farmer and know your food.” The eggs from Peacock Family Farms out in Dinuba are vouchsafed through a few sources and we can attest to their freshness and flavor. And several customers recommend the eggs from San Fernando Valley-based Kendor Farms. There are many other vendors who, when their girls are laying, provide a multi-hued selection of eggs for sale, though supplies are usually pretty limited. Still, they aren't from Iowa, and the farmer can probably tell you each one's name.