So, which came first. The brown egg or the white egg?…or maybe the green hued or speckled blue? What about baby bird or dinosaur sized?These days most consumers of eggs settle for the lowly large white egg. There they sit, stacked upon one another in their Styrofoam cartons from chickens that I can only imagine live a horror of a shortened life. I know that if I were a producer of eggs, as in if I were a chicken, I would not be giving it “my all” to create the tastiest and oldest forms of protein known to man. Which lead me to look at the label on the cartons of eggs I was buying. I happened to be shopping at Whole Foods one afternoon when I noticed the address of the farm. I was pleasantly surprised that these protein powerhouses came from a farm in Hillsborough, North Carolina, which is about 11 miles from my home in Durham.
The name of the farm was Latta’s and they listed a phone number on the carton. I took my purchase home and decided to call the farm to ask what they fed their chickens, if they were eating organic feed and what their living quarters were like. Eloise Latta answered the phone sounding like the grandma I never knew. “Hello?” she asked. “Hi. My name is Shirlé and I just purchased a dozen eggs from Whole Foods that has your farm’s name on the carton and I wanted to know, although your carton doesn’t say “organic” on it, what are you feeding the chickens?” In the sweetest Southern accent, she told me that they were eating an organic diet of grains, but that the farm didn’t have the funds to get the organic certification. I then asked her about the chickens living conditions. She replied, “Well, they are free to roam, but are in a big ol’ house.” She then said, “Why don’t you come on out and take a look around. You are welcome to buy some eggs from us here on the farm.” I told her I would love to come out.
The following week I ventured out for the 2o minute drive to find Latta’s Farm. First, I went down the wrong dirt road and met a herd of woolly buffalo looking critters. A farm hand followed my Honda Fit down the bumpy road in his pick up truck and kindly asked what I was doing. “I’m looking for Latta’s Farm…where the eggs are?,” I said. He told me I had passed the driveway, so I turned around and made my way back to the road. I passed by the families homestead (pictured above) and thought what an amazing place to spend your whole life and that it was so close to my city life.
Finding the gravel driveway I made my way to where the chickens live and where their eggs get inspected and boxed. I was met at the screened door by Mr. Latham Latta, the purveyor of this farm for Lord knows how many years. (I know the family has long ties with Hillsborough because there is a street named after them when I was driving to the farm). Standing about 5 feet tall, Latham looked to be up in years, probably seeing his father head off to WWI as a child. I told him I had spoke with Eloise and that she told me I could come purchase some eggs. As I quickly glanced around the room I noticed that there were boxes upon boxes of eggs. There were men inspecting eggs under lights and other men packing the eggs into more boxes as they came down the conveyor belt.
Latham, who is a little hard of hearing, asked me if I wanted to buy some eggs. I asked him how much and he gave me the breakdown. “Well, you can get a tray of 30 whites for $4.00 or you can get 30 browns for $4.75.” I was shocked that I could get these gorgeous, extra large, brown organic eggs for that cheap! That was like .15 and egg! I told him that I would like to get a tray of the brown ones and handed over my $5 bill. (he doesn’t take cards, friends). He actually tried to down sell me to buy the white ones. “The only difference is the shell color, they all taste about the same,” he said. I stuck to my brown choice anyway. Again, these were the most beautiful, super large eggs I had ever seen. He then told me, “All the restaurants from Hillsborough to Chapel Hill to Durham come and get their eggs from me,” to which I replied, “And I can see why!” He asked if I had a restaurant (I was in my chef jacket) and told him I didn’t, but that I cooked for families in their homes, but these eggs were actually for my husband and me. He also said that he had a bunch of young chickens that had laid their first batches of pullet eggs and those were only $2 for a tray of 30. I took a look at those and decided to purchase a tray of baby pullet eggs as well, thinking I could share these with my friends, which I did.
The eggs last about a month in the refrigerator, but we go through them in about 3 weeks. The yolks are a golden deep hue of orange and the whites are clearer. If you are interested in egg facts check out the latest issue of Cooking Light or go here to see a video from the article. Many myths have been challenged and there aren’t as many taboos about egg consumption. As with anything, moderation is the key.
I guess the message of this story is all about buying local. I had never really taken the time to look at where my eggs came from and to find out that they were so close to my home. It made me start rethinking what I buy and the distance it travels to get to my home. This summer David (my husband) and I are trying to be as self sufficient with vegetables by eating only what we are growing in our backyard garden, and so far we have done well. I know that not everyone can always buy local or grow their own food, but everywhere in this country there are farmer’s markets and more and more mainstream grocery stores are competing to carry “local” produce. So, next time you go to your grocery store simply ask the grocer where the local produce is located.
Eggs are easy. They are good for you and make quick breakfast, lunch and dinner a snap to create. I know that buying these eggs inspired me to make some wonderful weekend meals, like this Spanish Tortilla (pictured above). I also like the fact that I am helping someone in our community sustain their family business. Try searching for local eggs and let me know what you discover.