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Where we let our thoughts, recipes and ideas run, scratch and nest as free as our chickens.

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Eat Eggs, Be Healthy

For many years, eggs were considered a cholesterol-packed villain in the story of you versus heart disease, and many people erroneously limited – or altogether avoided – eggs as a part of their regular heart healthy diet.

Now a report from a panel of U.S. nutrition and medical experts is debunking that myth for good. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a federal publication that has far-reaching impact on our food choices, announced “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” Meaning, eggs can shake off the bad reputation and be recognized as a nutritious and convenient part of your healthy, well-balanced diet.

And there’s more! According to CNN, the report also identifies under-consumed “shortfall nutrients,” including vitamins A, D, and E, as well as folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. You can find all of these nutrients and a slew of others in – you guessed it – EGGS!  To read the complete article from CNN, click here: “Cholesterol in food not a concern, new report says

So go ahead. Crack in to our eggs for breakfast, for dinner, or anytime. They’re good for you!

To read more about the nutritional benefits of eggs for you and your family, click here

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Bird Flu Forecast: Cloudy

This is an update on the Avian Influenza (AI) Outbreak of 2015. For those that are just catching up to this story, this is perhaps the worst episode of AI in U.S history and certainly in the past ten years. Millions of hens, primarily in the Midwest and West, have had to be destroyed to stem the spread of the disease. AI, or “Bird Flu” is carried by migrating flocks of wild fowl like ducks and geese. It is not harmful to them, but it is deadly to domestic chickens and turkeys. The wild birds spread it by landing on, or near, farms, and then they can spread the virus to hens, even to those confined in cages in big agricultural facilities. Only about 10% of hens in the U.S. have actual access to the outdoors like ours, yet the other 90% of industrial caged facilities have been some of the hardest hit. One facility in Iowa had to destroy over 5 million birds. No one is exactly sure about all the ways that it may spread. Theories range from careless workers who carry the virus in on their shoes or clothing as they enter an enclosure to pond water that is infected and then used for the birds to drink. Conventional egg prices have skyrocketed as a result of the loss of over 40 million laying hens in the U.S. this year.

At Nellie’s Free Range we have yet to lose a single bird to AI. There are probably several reasons for this:

  • Our small family farms are primarily on the East Coast and the heart of the outbreak has come via the Mississippi River Flyway migration route.
  • Our farmers are small, family business owners who are in their barns every day and follow a very rigid biological safety protocol.
  • During the worst months of the outbreak we kept our free range hens in their still quite comfortable and roomy barns as advised by the USDA and Humane Farm Animal Care, our certification agency on humane standards.
  • Some good luck.

Caution remains the order of the day going forward. Cooler weather in the fall, combined with the return migration of wild fowl over farm areas, could very well lead to new outbreaks. So while we have been able to let our girls out a bit in the summer sunshine during July and August, we will continue to be extremely vigilant about following all safety guidelines until we are certain that the risk has passed. Hopefully, that will be next spring, but none of the experts are quite sure yet what we’re dealing with, given how severe the current outbreak has been.

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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.