This is one of our (all of us) favorite signs to see on the side of the road. The imagination ranges from images of a peacefully foraging flock in a classic barnyard to the thought of two eggs over easy alongside some fluffy sausage gravy on fluffy buttermilk biscuits with a strong cup of coffee. I hope to persuade you that the “Fresh Eggs” sign should say $3.00 and we should be proud to pay our neighbors a fair price for their farm produce. Not only would you ensure that your egg provider continues to keep a flock but you are making a direct investment in local food security.
Part of why we like to see eggs, rabbits, and tomatoes for sale on the side of the road is it comforts us to know that some of our personal food chain is less than 2500 miles long. Some food is being produced locally without multinational agribusiness control. What we often forget is the 17 degree night when someone went out to check that the animals were snug or the 98 degree day the tomatoes needed hoeing. However there is a more compelling reason to pay fairly for our eggs. They cost that much. Check at your local grocery and you’ll find the cheapest factory farmed eggs available for $2.15 per dozen if you buy 5 dozen at once. Cage Free eggs which is simply a different version of factory farming cost $3.00 per dozen and organic eggs cost $4.50 – $5.00 per dozen. Now let’s look at what it costs to keep a flock.
Groundwell Farm Agricultural Research Mission (GFARM) has compared industry standards for feed consumption by layers to actual figures for a midsized layer flock (Plymouth Rocks) and found consistent results. At current prices of $14.20 including tax for 50 pounds of layer feed, eggs cost more than $1.50 per dozen from average size hens. A midsize hen eats 3 pounds of feed per week. This means a 50 pound bag of feed will feed a layer for 117 days. If the hen laid one egg daily which is possible for part of the prime of a layer’s life, that would be 9.75 dozen eggs and they would cost $1.46 per dozen. That is only for feed. Other costs include housing, chickens, feeding roosters and young non-laying birds, healthcare, fencing, feeders and waterers, etc. Clearly the eggs are actually costing more than $1.50 per dozen, however many small farmers and homesteaders have resigned themselves to the “market not bearing” a real price for their produce. Let’s give the encouragement local farmers need to keep some food production local. Next time you buy $2.00 eggs, pay $3.00 and when they ask why say,” because I really like knowing you have such fresh eggs available on my way home.”
For the Growers
GFARM compared feeding commercial layer crumbles to layer pellets in a hanging feeder and found that pellets result in close to 10 percent feed savings simply by limiting waste. We encourage you to see if this helps you realizing that your feeder type or the habits of your layers could produce different results. Until next time, keep on growin’, keep on growin’.