Last weekend I had the egg-ceptional opportunity to visit Coyote Creek Farm & Organic Feed Mill located about a half hour outside of Austin. It is home to over 8,000 pastured chickens that produce outstanding, high quality eggs, as well as a dozen or so grassfed cows and a llama named Lala. Cameron, the general manager, and Emily, the office manager, were gracious enough to lead my Austin Primal Meetup Group on an egg-citing tour of the farm. Ok, I’m done with the egg cliches. Promise.
The chickens are housed in large pens. Each pen contains approximately 400 chickens, a mobile coop, and access to water, grasses, bugs, and feed. The coops are moved once a week and the pens are moved every two weeks, ensuring the chickens have access to fresh native grasses and weeds. Once the pens have been moved the land will recover for about a year, allowing the chicken waste to fertilize the ground and the grasses to return.
Chickens require about 500 calories a day which is extremely high considering their size. They could subsist entirely on grasses and bugs, but to ensure the eggs are uniform in quality and consistency, they are supplemented with fresh organic feed made of a variety of grains. Each chicken receives a quarter cup of feed per day. Because their primary business is milling organic feed, which they sell all over the southern US, their chickens get freshly cracked grains each day, giving the chickens immediate access to nutrients that degrade quickly. Coyote Creek boasts a high nutrient content in their eggs with less saturated fat and cholesterol. Coyote Creek is unique in that they offer a soy-free variety of pastured eggs.
Cameron was extremely knowledgeable and spent the entire tour answering all of our questions. He said that the reason they house their chickens in groups of less than 500 is because the pecking order truly does exist, but too many in a flock will cause the social system to break down causing anxiety in the chickens. Anxious chickens produce poor quality eggs so it is important to keep the chickens happy!
Eggs are collected twice a day and taken to the egg washing and packing station. They are run through the egg washer which removes the dirt and debris but isn’t vigorous enough to wash away the bloom, the protective coating that keeps the egg fresh, longer. They are inspected for cracks and other anomalies, graded, then packed. We learned that grading is purely an aesthetic practice. A grade A egg must be well formed (egg-shaped) with a smooth shell free of calcium deposits. The eggs that don’t make the Grade A cut are packaged up and donated to local food banks. Coyote Creek is active in the community and committed to providing low income families access to real, nutritious foods.
Some interesting egg facts: Cameron stated that the eggs you see in the grocery store have typically already been in storage for 30 days. Farm fresh eggs can easily last 60-90 days in refrigeration. A fresh egg has a small air pocket at the top that you can see if you shine a light through it. The bigger that pocket is, the older the egg. You can determine what color egg a chicken will lay by the color of their ears. Yeah, I didn’t know chickens had ears either.
Visiting the farm and meeting Cameron and Emily was such a great experience. I now have a much better idea of what goes into the eggs I eat. Making that personal connection in the food chain allows you to take an active role in your health while helping small local farming operations thrive.
Visit your local farmers market and start up a conversation with some of the vendors. Most of them would be happy to have you come out and take a tour. While there, ask if they can provide you with products direct from the farm. Buying in bulk straight from the farm can save you money and provide you with the best nutrition!