Knowing your food and your farmer. We talk about this, but why is it important? So you can support farmers who practice sustainable agriculture that improves the land, soil, and animal health; to provide healthy nourishment for your and your family; and ultimately to glorify our Creator through our recognition and pursuit of food systems that honor His design.
But how can you know if a particular food source is a wise and healthy choice? You start by talking to the farmer who produces it, asking questions that pertain to the type of food you're buying.
This is the first post of a series where we'll cover types of local food, along with the particular questions you can ask to determine the quality of the food being offered.
First up: chickens and eggs (and other poultry as well). Please use the questions and issues below when approaching your local farmer or source. Use your own words, and in the interest of bringing people together rather than putting them off, we suggest a friendly, approachable tone.
(You might also want to revisit this post that shares practical tips for developing a relationship with your farmers!)
Got something to add or another point to make? Be sure to share in the comments.
Where do you keep your chickens? Do they live in a coop or a portable structure? How much access to they have to pasture and are they rotated to new pasture regularly?
Chickens are designed to scratch and peck for bugs. Chickens that live indoors are more prone to disease and other health problems because they cannot act like normal, healthy chickens in this way. Pastured chickens control insect pest problems, fertilize the soil with their excrement, and enjoy life doing what they were created to do.
Do your chickens have a place to nest before laying their eggs?
Chickens will lay eggs anywhere. Even in conventional facilities, chickens will produce eggs on cold metal slabs. In nature, however, chickens prefer to make a comfy nest out of feathers, bits of straw, etc., and then lay their eggs inside. This is how God created them to behave. Sure, chickens will lay eggs anywhere, but allowing chickens to act according to their design respects the animal and leads to happier chickens. Conscientious farmers provide and allow their chickens to nest so they can create an ideal egg-laying environment.
Do you use non-GMO, organic feed?
According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, eating genetically modified food has huge health consequences. These can include “infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system… and unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems.”
Most commercial/conventional chicken feed is made of corn and soy. And according to GMO Inside, 94% of soy and 88% of corn in the United States is genetically modified and most of it (90% of soy production and 80% of corn) is used in animal feed. We are only as healthy as the food we eat — if the animals we consume have been fed a GMO-based diet, we consume those GMOs when we eat those animals.
Do you wash the eggs?
This may seem like a silly question, but when eggs are cleaned in chemicals or even soap, the porous membrane of the egg is destroyed, allowing bacteria (good or bad) into the egg. Commercial eggs are usually washed and sanitized using chemical solutions which completely destroy this protective membrane.
However, dirty eggs are less attractive and certainly affect consumer decisions. While it is best that the farmer avoids chemicals for cleaning, a wipe with sandpaper or a quick bath in warm water will eliminate the grime while keeping the membrane intact.
Farmers price their products so that they can earn a fair wage. This should be respected. However, if you need a more affordable price, here are a few effective and inoffensive ways to ask.
Can I buy chickens and/or eggs in bulk at a reduced price?
This is best asked at peak season when there's an overabundance!
Can I get discounted prices for whole chickens?
Whole chickens are less work to process. Obviously, this may not apply to every farm, since some may sell only whole chickens.
Do you discount chicken feet and backs?
These are less popular parts but perfect for making delicious stock.
Do you discount odd parts that aren't selling?
Legs and wings can often be discounted because they aren't as popular as the breast.
Do you offer discounts for pullet eggs?
Pullets are young and often produce smaller or irregular eggs, so their eggs are often cheaper. They can still be used at a 1:1 ratio in recipes, though, so you get just as much use out of a pullet egg, albeit at a cheaper price!
What other questions do you ask your poultry farmers? Any other issues to bring up?
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