You may have noticed barren shelves and soaring prices on eggs in grocery stores. Outbreaks of avian flu have impacted large farming operations across the country, forcing farms to slaughter chickens, reducing the population size of laying hens nationally. Additionally, corporate profiteering, inflation and fuel prices are forcing feed and shipping costs to go up – this increase in costs and stress falls onto the consumers.
But how is this impacting local chicken farmers? We asked some local egg farmers to understand how national issues are impacting them.
Luckily, local chicken farmers do not face the same disease challenges as large scale chicken operations. Avian flu is actually less of a concern to local, pastured-raised flocks as they are smaller and are given lots of time in the fresh outdoor areas, rather than being in cramped indoor areas, which is a situation that promotes disease.
Local farmers are not seeing avian flu issues but are experiencing a dip in production. Why? “Daylength, not weather or temperature, determines when (and how much) chickens lay eggs,” says Brenda at Milk House Farm. In the winter, with shorter daylight hours, chickens lay fewer eggs. Local chickens are impacted by length of daylight because they spend a lot of time outdoors, unlike large chicken operations which house birds indoors under artificial light year-round to maximize production. As the days get longer and we head toward spring, local egg production will start to naturally go up.
Local pasture-raised chickens are allowed to be chickens. They can peck, scratch and take dust baths to their heart’s content, allowing them to forage for bugs and nutritionally dense wild plants, otherwise known as weeds. High quality feed makes their eggs extra high in CLA and Omega-3s, leading to a more nutritious egg for you. “Happy animals that live in a low stress environment create delicious, healthy food,” says Tussock Sedge Farm.
Consumers have been flocking in record numbers to local farms to purchase their eggs. “We’ve seen a huge increase in egg sales. I literally can’t get them boxed fast enough” says Lisa of Hollow House Farms, “We have definitely noticed our local community purchasing more of our eggs whether that is at our roadside stand for the local community, online pre-orders, or the local farmers market.”
A thriving local farming community is vital to keep a stable food supply. Want to buy some local eggs? Check out these Bucks County farms:
Local pasture raised chickens, like the flock at First Fruits Farm are allowed to peck, forage, and explore in the fresh air.
Rich golden yolks, local free range eggs are more nutritious for you, photo of Hollow House Farm’s eggs.
Some of the happy laying chickens at Hollow House Farm.