What separates Emanuel's eggs from store bought ones, even the organic free range ones, is grass.
While all free range and organic chickens must have access to the outdoors, in many cases what they get is a little dirt yard accessible through a small door on the end of a huge building. Many of the birds never actually go outside and none of them get anything out of it except maybe some sunshine and fresh air. Pastured chickens, on the other hand, are kept on actual living green grass. They nibble at leaves and seeds and they scour the ground for insects. This makes the yolks richer, the whites stiffer, and the shells harder than factory farmed chicken eggs. But it also makes a lot of work for the farmer and it necessarily limits the size of the flock because they must be moved to fresh grass about every week.
|Notice the big wagon wheel towards the back of the chicken house.|
This is done by keeping the chickens in a portable house and using light weight fencing to make their pasture. When it is time to move the fence is opened up on one end, the house gets hitched to a team of horses, and the chickens get carried from the worn out patch to a fresh new area.
|Chickens, startled by the motion, squirt out from all sides.|
The old patch the chickens came from benefits from the manure the birds left behind and from their pecking and scratching. I will grow up more lush and ready to feed the chickens again in a few weeks when they rotate back to that part of the field.
The horses drop the house off in the fresh grass and the fence is wrapped around the front to keep the birds in. Right away they start exploring the new territory, looking for tasty bites inside and outside the house.
So this is why Emanuel's eggs cost $5.75/dozen and why people keep buying them even at that price. Raising chickens this way, moving them around every week, he can't have a 50,000 bird flock like the big name organic egg producers and therefore he can't get the volume discount on feed that they can get. But what they can't get is the richness of diet that true pasturing provides to the birds. This year Emanuel is trying something a little different though - instead of feeding raw grains he's sprouting the grains before giving them to the birds. The hope is that this will reduce the amount of feed needed while increasing the quality of it. If it works he might be able to bring the price down while having an even better product. I will keep you posted.