Got a question? Chances are, we have an answer for you. Check here for some of the most common questions we receive about our eggs.
What’s the difference between Cage-Free and Pasture-Raised eggs?
“Cage-free” simply means that hens are not kept in cages inside their barns, but our Carol’s Cage-Free Heirloom hens have even more freedom than that (and much more than many “cage-free” factory-style farms offer).
They live in naturally-sunlit, airy, curtain walled barns. They have plenty of room for natural behaviors like stretching their wings, perching, congregating with friends, scratching, strutting, and dust-bathing, and private, quiet places to lay their eggs.
Carol’s Pasture-Raised Organic hens also have spacious barns with no cages, and room to do what comes naturally, but they also spend every day (weather permitting) on protected fields of certified organic green, seasonal pasture. They spend their nights indoors as they prefer, safe from predators.
Are all Carol’s Eggs Pasture-Raised?
Carol’s Pasture-Raised Organic Eggs are, as their name implies, pasture-raised—but Carol’s Cage-Free Heirloom Eggs are not. Instead, our Heirloom hens live in spacious, well-ventilated, naturally-sunlit and airy, curtain wall barns.
Why aren’t Heirloom Eggs Pasture-Raised?
We’re enthusiastic about the wonderful pasture-raising system our farmers use to produce Carol’s Pasture-Raised Organic Eggs, but the substantial time and labor required to manage a pasture-raising system can add to the cost significantly.
Heirloom Eggs are already more costly to produce, since they come from prized (and premium-priced) breeds like Ameraucanas and Marans. We’ve chosen not to pasture-raise our Carol’s Cage-Free Heirloom hens, because the cost of their eggs would then become prohibitive for many people. We are, however, in the process of converting our Heirloom farms to a free range standard which provides nearly as much pasture space as pasture raised without increasing cost much. We will update the web site when this process is complete.
Your eggs are labeled “certified humane.” What does that mean?
Certified Humane® is a program of Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve animal welfare. It’s widely known as the “gold standard” of farm animal care certification.
Our Certified Humane® labels show our farms are regularly inspected to meet all HFAC’s rigorous standards. It’s your assurance that our hens always have ample space and shelter, in clean, well-ventilated barns, with safe outdoor access. They’re handled gently to minimize stress, and have plenty of freedom to engage in their natural behaviors, like roosting, scratching, and dust-bathing. We’re committed to the welfare of our hens.
To learn more about the Certified Humane Program, please visit www.certifiedhumane.com.
What do your hens eat?
Carol’s Cage-Free Heirloom hens enjoy nutritionally balanced feed that contains whole cereal grains like corn and soybeans, marigold petals, alfalfa grasses, and naturally omega-3-rich flaxseed. They have access to clean, fresh filtered water whenever they need it.
The feed our Carol’s Pasture-Raised Organic hens eat daily is similar, but is also Certified Organic. The hens also forage on organic pasture daily most of the year, so they also get a nutritious boost from the plants, bugs, worms, and grubs they find there.
Do pasture-raised eggs taste different from regular eggs?
Most folks say pasture-raised egg flavors are deeper and more “eggy” when compared with other eggs. The flavor can also vary a little, depending on the time of year. The pasture’s vegetation—and the insects, worms, and grubs that live in it—change with the season, so some of the hen’s diet will, too, and you might taste a difference in the yolks.
The yolks’ color can also change seasonally, thanks to plant pigments called carotenoids, found in dark leafy greens, grasses and weeds like dandelions. Carotenoids can give yolks a deeper orange-yellow color. (Bonus: Carotenoids are also natural, heart-healthy antioxidants.)
How do Heirloom eggs taste?
Old folks who grew up on farms tell us our heirloom eggs “taste like eggs used to taste” – with a full, rich character they remember fondly from their childhoods. They lament that most supermarket eggs these days “don’t have much flavor at all.”
That’s because in the old days, farmers chose heirloom breeds that were best adapted to the local climate and landscape. They knew they’d produce the highest quality, best-tasting eggs. Nowadays, the factory farms look for breeds that give them the most eggs, fastest, with the cheapest possible “inputs” (diet). Whose eggs do you think will taste better?
Why do you have barns if you provide pasture for the hens?
Hens naturally prefer to go indoors at night, because they know that’s where they’re safest from predators. (It’s a smart instinct, since most of their worst predators—like foxes, coyotes, wolves, and owls—are most active at night.) And, in our Northeastern winters, a warm barn is a must on cold, wet and snowy days. As much as they love hunting and pecking in the grass, our pasture-raised hens are happiest knowing there’s a safe, comfortable perch waiting for them nearby in their barn!
Why do you think it’s so important to support small-flock, family egg farms?
When Carol and her husband Gerry inherited her family’s egg farm in the early 1980’s, they watched in frustration as one small farm after another disappeared from their town, and their own business struggled.
Many family farms like theirs were unable to compete with the huge-scale farms that steadily took over the market. According to the USDA, there were 2.9 million farms in the US in 1970. By 2008, there were only about 2.19 million—a 25 percent drop.
Today, if you want to start a small farm, the odds are stacked against you. Most would-be egg farmers are forced to “go big” in order to be viable, requiring them to make a huge investment up front to build massive operations. That’s no easy task, since banks have tightened their credit in recent years.
Carol’s Eggs provides new and smaller-scale farmers a viable chance to farm–first and foremost by providing small farmers a stable market for their eggs. With a steady income year-round, small-scale farmers are better able to plan ahead and secure financing. They’re better able to diversify their farms—say, also running a vegetable farm and taking on small herd of livestock. They’re better able to manage their land and resources, with a smaller environmental footprint. It’s a win-win for farms, families, and the community.
“We hope to help small family farmers get their land and their livelihoods back,” says Carol. “It’s a small step, but that’s how every big journey begins.”