Nellie's Free Range Eggs

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Chickens, Farmers & Partners

Recently, chickens have been in the news, and not always for great reasons, such as with bird flu and the attention inhumane practices have received after California passed Proposition 2, forbidding the use of battery cages for producing eggs.

Another news story about chickens that we’ve noticed is about farmers who work under contract for big meat poultry companies. The arrangement works like this: the farmer owns the land, structures and equipment. The poultry company sends them chickens and the feed necessary to raise them. The problem comes when the company continually demands that they modify their facilities in various expensive ways, but do not support that with higher payments to the farmers. Furthermore, they apply a “tournament system” whereby if your birds don’t grow as fat on the same feed as a neighboring contract farm, your payments will be cut and you can even be terminated as a contractor with little notice. Finally, if a farmer requests a change to their facility to improve the quality of life for the birds, they will often be told no and can be subject to additional sanctions, inspections, or pay cuts. This is a fairly ruthless, but still quite common, course of business in the industry.

Nellie’s Free Range Eggs also works with independent, small family farms to produce our eggs. But there are some very significant differences with how we do business with our farmer partners.

First of all, our farmers are partners, in every sense of the word. They are offered guaranteed prices to follow the strict guidelines for Certified Humane farming.

Second, we do not use a tournament system to constantly weed out our less efficient farmers. Instead we sign long-term contracts and do not penalize them for production issues that are not in their control, and will instead lend them a hand. We send our farm technicians to their homes to help them with issues that affect production like lighting, airflow, and temperature in the barn. We never pressure them to increase production by doing something that impairs the welfare of the hens, or the family that tends to them.

Third, instead of cutting corners, we continually work to improve conditions, such as our recent accomplishment of getting 100% of our farm partners on a Certified Humane Free Range standard. This is the opposite of the approach some of these other companies take. We are a Certified B-Corp, which means that we seek to meet a triple bottom line of financial, social welfare and environmental standards.

In the past decade of farming under our current partnership system, we have never terminated a farmer for poor financial performance and we have never had a farmer sue us, or leave us because they were unhappy with the partnership. That’s something we’re very proud of.

13 responses

  1. Patricia McCabe says:

    The first time I tried Nellies eggs, I was so surprised at the outstanding color of the yolks! A deep orange. I did a test and cracked one of your eggs against another famous brand, Eggland’s Best, and WOW, they were actually so much different in color. I found out the deeper the yolk color, the fresher the egg. And that was only one thing. Your eggs are truly delicious. I feel good about eating them. And I am very happy about the treatment of your chickens. That alone makes my meals feel good. I make delicious omelets, scrambled, fried, pouched, hard boiled, you name it and I make it. I go out of my way to buy your eggs at the Stop & Shop. Market Basket doesn’t carry them. But I am happy to do that. I have started to hang around the egg refrigerators and tell random people about how good your eggs are. I am eggstatic!!

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      HI Patricia,

      We’re so delighted to hear how much you are enjoying our Certified Humane Free Range Nellie’s Eggs! We’ll be sure to let the girls know that they are doing a great job. Thank you for supporting our small family farms!

  2. Rachel says:

    Why can’t I “like” Patricia’s comment? ; ) I noticed the color of your yolks are darker, too, which I didn’t know until recently meant better! After doing a lot of research, and not being satisfied from all of the sources of the eggs marketed under my local grocery store’s name, I’ve decided to stick with Nellie’s.

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Hi Rachel! Thanks for the ‘like!’ We’re thrilled to hear that you are enjoying our eggs too!

  3. Rebecca says:

    The chickens in the photo are inside, which I know is necessary during times af bad weather, but they seem awfully crowded. Am I missing something? I love your eggs but want to be sure these sweeties get treated well by every farmer.

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Hi Rebecca! Thanks so much for reaching out to us. You’re right that during inclement weather, we must keep the girls inside. Cold New England winters can cause frostbite, and the girls know this, so they don’t want to be out in it either.

      Our barn interiors provide plenty of space for our girls to do as they please. We have dirt scratch areas inside the barns where they can peck around and dust bathe. Hens are very curious and social creatures, and the vast majority flock together in close proximity, while a shy and quiet few like to spend more of their time alone and on perches. Because of this natural behavior and hen personality, some areas of the barn become very crowded looking, and some areas are completely empty.

      We feel it’s important and we’re proud that we were the first farm in the country to earn the Certified Humane accreditation, and we exceed the recommend minimum area allowed for the hens (1.2 square feet). This standard was determined by the scientific welfare advisory committee of Humane Farm Animal Care, which includes well recognized experts such as Temple Grandin, and Michael Appleby, Ph. D. You can find those standards here: You can find Certified Humane standards for space requirements here. http://certifiedhumane.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Std14.Layers.5Z.pdf Look on page 7 for these requirements.

      And, we think it’s important to keep in mind that 90% of US laying hens still live their entire life locked indoors in cramped cages. So, we are certain that they’d gladly trade places with our Nellie’s girls any day.

      Thanks for reaching out to us with your question!

  4. Jamie-Lynne Scribner says:

    I recently saw a photograph comparing the egg yolks of Nellie’s eggs with the egg yolks. of other hens not raised in free range environments. I can’t wait to try Nellie’s eggs!

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Hi Jamie-Lynn! Our yolks do tend to be much darker than eggs from caged, commodity hens. As you mentioned, our girls are free range, which means they get to be outside pecking for bugs, worms and grass. We hope you enjoy them!

      1. Jamie-Lynne Scribner says:

        Hi!

        I just bought my first dozen of Nellie’s eggs 2 days ago and then I had two poached eggs each day for the last 2 days. They are absolutely divine and worth every penny of the extra money even though I’m on a fixed retirement income. You mentioned how you care for your girls by allowing them to hunt and peck for their natural foods. I gather they would also be able to dust bathe, a natural behavior. I also hope you do not give them daily doses of antibiotics that can lead to the development of super bugs that are resistant to medication. I also hope you don’t use chemical fertilizers in your fields. Nonetheless, I will never again buy any other eggs but Nellie’s.

        1. Sarah Walls says:

          Hi Jamie-Lynne,

          Thanks so much for the kind words, we’re glad to hear that you enjoyed our eggs. Our hens are absolutely able to get out and dust bathe, peck in the grass for bugs and worms and just be chickens. None of our hens are given low doses of antibiotics through their feed which is a practice common to factory egg farms.

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