Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How Much Are Your Eggs?

How much are your eggs?      That was the question asked of my 11 year old daughter when she went to the farmers market a couple weeks ago.

I am a vendor at our local winter farmers market.   My children often times take turns going with me to help out.   I sell all my goat milk bath and body products along with my apothecary wellness line.    I told my daughter Josie, "You should go with me this time and set up a table to sell your eggs."     All winter long Josie really did not have spare eggs to sell, however, the egg production had picked up and she had several dozen. 

Josie was excited. Not only was she going to sell her eggs, but help out a friend of ours and sell hers as well.    She went and found a small table to set up and even had a table cloth to cover it.   When we got to the farmers market she set up her table and put together a nice display of the eggs she had for sale.  I told her that it should not take long for her to sell her eggs once the market opened for business.


Customer after customer came up and asked, " How much are your eggs?" To which she replied, "Four dollars a dozen."   Customers kept coming and no one was buying.   Josie asked, "Mom what is wrong with my eggs?"  "No one wants to buy them."   Sadly, I noticed the same people walking around with eggs that they had purchased from other vendors.  They were selling their eggs for a dollar a dozen cheaper.  

After about an hour watching my daughter's eggs sit on the table untouched,  I told her to start selling them for three dollars a dozen.   I could not stand to see how disappointed she was that no one wanted her eggs.    Low and behold she was able to sell all of her eggs and some of our friend's eggs as well.  

This is were the story takes a turn, and I get on my soap box.  I do not think people realize how much money and time it takes to raise chickens for egg laying.  We buy all the feed for the chicken and Josie does all the chores.  In return for her work taking care of the chickens she gets to sell the eggs and keep the money. This is her way of earning a little income.   It is our way of teaching her responsibility.  If we did not supply the feed for the Josie's chickens, she would never see a cent for her eggs because the expense of raising chickens is so high.

The chicken feed that we purchase cost anywhere from $18.00-$21.00.  We buy good all natural feed in 50lb bags.   Each bag of feed lasts one week. Not one week and one day,  just one week.   Josie has 20 laying hens and she gets about 10-12 eggs a day.   (chickens do not lay one egg a day like folks think)  So, if Josie gets  seven dozen a week she feels pretty good.   Take seven dozen eggs and divide that into the cost of feed.   Let's go down the middle on the feed prices and say $19.50.  It cost Josie $2.79 cents per dozen to feed her chickens.  To purchase the egg cartons costs .45 cents each.  (we usually try to use recycled cartons, but that does not always work)  Now for a dozen eggs, Josie is up to $3.24 in costs.  That does not account for water, time to care for the chickens, electricity, oyster shells, range cube, bedding, or the cost of the chicken initially.   So, at four dollars a dozen Josie makes a whopping .76 cents per dozen. At three dollars a dozen she is losing .24 cents a dozen.  

I do not think that people realize what goes into putting high quality food on the table.   I think people need to question their local farmer about what goes into the care of their livestock and poultry.    

Questions to ask in regards to poultry:
1.  What are they fed (is it commercial feed, all natural, organic)
2.  Are they free range  (do they have access to green grass, bugs, dirt, and sunshine)
3.  Explain free range (is it a pen that is outside or are they allowed to roam free)
4.  How do you handle the eggs produced  ( how soon are they gathered, washed, and how are      they stored)
5.  Are the eggs labeled with the producers information (name, address, phone number, and the date the eggs were packaged)
6.  Does the producer have the appropriate licensing required by the state of operation
7.  What type of housing do the chickens live in
8.  What kind of chickens do you have
9.  Is there a rooster in your flock  (some people do not want fertilized eggs)
10. Are any chemicals used on the farm where the eggs are produced
11. Ask to tour the farm (I would love to give our customers a tour of where their eggs, pork, beef, milk and chicken is raised)  Most farmers would be proud to show you their farming operation.  If they are not willing to do a tour you might ask yourself why?

Some of these questions might seem a little out there to you, but that is one of the benefits of buying local, getting to know your farmer.   You can not go in a Big Box store and ask them how their free range eggs are raised.   Buying locally ensures that you can educate yourself on the food that is being placed on your table.   If the chickens that produce your eggs are not cared for in a manner in which you agree with,  you can go to another local producer who does.  

The moral of the story is ask your producer why their eggs are four dollars a dozen.   Or why they are only three dollars a dozen.  Ask them questions about the care of their poultry.   Otherwise,  you might be getting eggs equal to in quality to the eggs sold at the Big Box Stores. 
Meet your farmer!
When you see a eleven year old girls selling her eggs at the farmers market talk to her,  ask her about her chickens.   You might appreciate the conversation and learn about the care that went into her eggs.  The dollars you might have saved getting the eggs somewhere else might not seem so important if you get to know your farmer! 



Nebraska Prairie Girl