It’s sad to say that most of us don’t know where our food comes from. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I want to know where the food that I’m feeding my family, the food that is giving us energy and is fuelling our daily activities comes from. You know the saying “You are what you eat.” Never has this saying been going through my head more than since I started my Culinary Nutrition Expert Program.
Our first assignment in my program was to write our “Food Philosophy”. A philosophy that we strive to live by in our own lives and when sharing our knowledge of food with others. This is mine.
Simple right? It should be… but sometimes I struggle to walk the walk and talk the talk.
The second line of my food philosophy “Know where it comes from” came to me shortly after I did a recent BC Egg Farm Tour. It was an incredible day that made me re-think the food that I’m eating, the businesses that I’m supporting and the fact that I don’t know where most of my food comes from.
So today, let’s talk about eggs, where your eggs are coming from, what the different labels mean and then I’ll give you a sneak peek into my farm tour.
What the egg labels mean:
How they are housed:
Conventional- Eggs that come from chickens that are raised in cages.
Free Run- Eggs that come from chickens that are raised in an open barn system where they have nesting boxes. The chickens are able to roam around, within the barn, freely. These may also be labeled as cage free eggs.
Free Range/Pastured- Eggs that come from chickens that are in an open barn system at night, and are given outdoor access during the day. Usually the day time environment is an an enclosed pasture, where they can forage in the grass and eat greens and bugs. These may also be labeled as cage free eggs.
Enriched- This is a practice that is common in the UK and is just starting to come to Canada. These chickens are caged, but are in bigger cages than “conventional” where they are able to run around, have a nesting area and have perches for roosting. The ventilation and system for dealing with manure are also better than conventional cage systems.
What they are fed/given:
Organic- Are fed organic feed and are not treated with antibiotics or hormones.
Omega 3 Enriched Eggs- Their feed is supplemented with an Omega-3 Source like flax seeds.
Vegetarian Eggs- These eggs have been fed a vegetarian diet with no meat, fish products or access to bugs or grubs that free range or pastured eggs would have access to.
My BC Egg Farm Tour
On my BC Egg Farm Tour we visited two egg farms. The first was a free range facility called Maple Hills Farms and the second was an enriched cage facility called Kenettas.
Free Range Egg Farm
When we got out of the car at the first farm this is what we encountered. (Hit Play In The Box)
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Thousands upon thousands of happy, chickens. Meghan, our guide from BC Eggs explained to us that chickens won’t lay eggs unless they are happy, so it’s in the farmer’s best interest to have happy chickens.
I have to say, I was a little bit surprised at how social the birds were. They were so interested in us, what we were doing, and as we would walk along the fence they would follow us.
Both of the farms that we visited were family run farms. At this farm, Farmer Ralph told us about how his son has revolutionized how they farm with the latest technology. Everything is tracked electronically from the heat of the barn, to how much feed the eggs are consuming, to water flow, to egg production. Ralph and his son’s get alerts on their phone if anything changes so they can investigate and make sure the chickens are kept healthy and happy.
During our visit we saw the barn where the hens were kept at night (I was amazed that the hens are so well trained that they all head inside when it’s time to go in at night), saw the egg grading facilities, and had a delicious lunch featuring BC Eggs of course. I’ll have to admit, when our time was up, I was sad to leave. I’m sure that chicken farming isn’t the easiest life, but there is something so idyllic about a family farm.
Just take a look at this beautiful video about Farmer Ralph and Maple Hills Farms.
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Enriched Cage Farm
Our next stop was at Kenettas Farms to learn more about Enriched Cage egg farming, a practice that has become popular in the UK. Here we discovered a young farmer, who grew up in the egg farming business and recently decided to revolutionize his egg farming practice.
Elizabeth from The Guilty Kitchen, and the team from BC Egg and Spiro Creative and I got to dress up like oompa loompas for our tour.
I was happy to discover more chickens that looked quite healthy and happy. (Hit Play In The Box)
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They certainly were laying a lot of eggs! (Hit Play In The Box)
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The facilities were clean, the chickens had room to run around and boxes for nesting… They looked pretty happy! I wish that all caged chickens were kept like this.
3 Takeaways from my BC Egg Farm Tour
1. When you buy an egg in a BC grocery store, it’s coming from a BC Farmer.
2. Be careful when buying eggs at a farmer’s market or at a farmers stand. Make sure you know the farmer that you are purchasing from. If they are re-using other people’s egg cartons, that’s something to be wary of. Those cartons could contain salmonella if an egg has cracked in them and they are being re-used.
3. Many egg farms in Canada are family farms… It feels really good to support local families.
Take a peek at my BC Egg Farm Tour day with Elizabeth from The Guilty Kitchen.
[vimeo 143196996 w=650]
How this has changed my purchasing decisions:
1. I always went back and forth in my head, trying to figure out which was more important… organic eggs or free range eggs. Though I was very impressed with the enriched egg farm, I think that free range eggs are the what I’ll be buying in the future.
2. I loved finding out where my eggs come from! I’d love to visit more farms in the future to find out where more of my food is coming from. Where my food comes from is important to me, and I need to do better about being pro-active about doing that.
3. Seeing two of the farmer’s, getting to talk to them about their businesses and their families was an amazing experience. While I’ve always believed in “buying local” I’ll now be doing a better job of checking those labels to see where foods come from and making the choices that are closes to home.
Disclosure: Thank you to our friends at BC Egg for working with us on this post. As with every article on Hello Creative Family, all thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.
Learn more about BC Eggs on their website.
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Great article Crystal! More people need to visit their local farmers and learn where their food comes from. I didn’t realize hens were so social either. I would love to live on a hobby farm some day 🙂
The tours must have been so fun! Are the tours open to the public? I would love to take my daughter to a farm. I grew up with chickens so I have a bit of a soft spot for things like this 🙂