Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Consider Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is where a consumer buys a ‘share’ or membership/subscription of locally grown, seasonal produce directly from a farmer. Each consumer will typically get a box of vegetables or whatever products are included in their share, every week throughout the season.  Some farmers include eggs, meat, freshly baked breads, flowers or herbs in their boxes or offered as add-ons depending on the farm. 
Many farmers appreciate this program so they can spend time marketing their food earlier in the year, before their long days in the field begin. Farmers also receive payment early in the season to assist with the farm’s cash flow, they have enough money to buy seeds, supplies, and plan for expenses at the beginning of the season; they waste less money and crop by having the ability to plan out their resources more efficiently. 

They have the opportunity to grow more of a variety of produce, including heirloom varieties that you wouldn’t find in the average grocery store. Farmers will have more of an ability to market the produce they plan to grow in the future instead of trying to sell already-grown products. There is also the opportunity for farmers to get to know their customers and those who are eating the food they are producing. Some farms have introduced a ‘mix and match’ style CSA where the customer can customize what goes in their boxes instead of having one standard vegetable box for each member.

Knowing where food comes from is becoming increasingly important to families. Through a CSA, the consumer gets fresh food with great flavor and nutritional benefits. By buying from one farmer through the season, you’ll develop a relationship with the people growing your food. Exposure to new, seasonal vegetables will help you branch out and learn new recipes and ways of cooking. Kids typically favor food from ‘their’ farm when they know where it was grown. CSA’s also eliminate the middle-man in packaging and transportation. The profits are going to the growers for them to grow their businesses.

Locavores are people who eat only locally-grown produce, meat, eggs and other food products. Studies show that consuming locally-sourced food has positive health benefits. These foods may also have a higher nutritional value due to eating them closer to their time of harvest. Locally-sourced food is also less likely to be full of preservatives. Support small farmers and your local community by joining the movement. Click the links below to find CSA in your area.

Resources & Additional Info

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Egg Washing - Is It Really Needed?

This debate seems to be never ending: do you need to wash your eggs or not? Ultimately, it depends on how clean your eggs are naturally and whether or not you sell your eggs.

When an egg is laid, it is covered in a liquid membrane called the ‘bloom’ to protect the shell from absorbing bacteria and contaminating the egg. With this shield intact, the egg does not need to be refrigerated and can sit at room temperature for 1-2 weeks. Lightly brushing the egg with a dry cloth to remove any dirt or manure would not damage the bloom; however washing the egg with water would remove that shield. If your eggs are especially dirty, you would want to wash them to keep bacteria from entering the egg once it’s cracked. If your goal is to not have to wash your eggs, keep nesting boxes clean and collect eggs frequently, this will help avoid the eggs getting dirty. It is recommended to wash the egg in warm water right before use. Once the bloom is removed there is nothing blocking germs from entering the egg, so washed eggs do need to be kept in a fridge or consumed right away. Keeping eggs in the fridge increases their shelf life to several weeks.

Interestingly enough, in Europe, washing eggs is illegal. This is said to actually promote cleanliness on farms. Since they cannot wash their eggs, no one will want to buy eggs if they’re dirty so they produce the cleanest eggs possible. Eggs in other countries are sold at a grocery store on an unrefrigerated shelf. In an American supermarket, you would find those eggs in a fridge near the milk and cheese. The European Union regulates that eggs should not be refrigerated until sold to the final consumer.  Any change in temperature could cause eggs to sweat, be covered in condensation and promote the growth of bacteria. Here in the US, commercially sold eggs are required to be cleaned and sanitized with a chemical solution, their protective coating is removed, so the eggs need to be refrigerated to prevent the growth of bacteria. The USDA recommends keeping the eggs at a consistent temperature that should be 45°F or lower.

So, if your chickens are laying clean eggs for your own consumption, then no you do not need to wash your eggs. Those chickens have created a natural defense against bacteria for you. If you are selling eggs at a farmer’s market or grocery store, be sure to research your local egg handling laws. These vary from state to state and have strict regulations of how eggs are to be sold.

Additional Info and Resources

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fresh Local Eggs From Farmers in Your Community

Local Hens is a free marketing tool to connect local egg producers to consumers. The Local Hens website offers egg producers the opportunity to create a free farm profile that is searchable to consumers nationwide by typing in a zip code. This allows egg consumers looking for locally grown eggs to find farms in their area.

Local Hens
Local Hens Cartons
Many customers are becoming more knowledgeable and dedicated to providing fresh, locally sourced food for their families, but it can still be difficult for producers and consumers to connect. Without large scale production and marketing teams, small farms often rely on generic packaging and roadside signs or word of mouth to reach their consumers.  Local Hens offers small scale producers professional grade packaging, signs and website profiles to farmers.  The Local Hens line of premium egg cartons, promotional materials and the Local Hen Farm Directory are the perfect marketing solution for any small farmer.

Start with a Local Hens Farm Directory page. Create your free profile and start promoting your business online. Your profile will include maps and directions to your farm or market, pictures, a description of your farm and any sales or goods you offer, and any other links to social media or other sites you own.  Local Hens also features one farm a week on their Featured Farmer page which is promoted through Local Hens and the Egg Carton Store social media pages. This free resource is available to you to help you gain customers and exposure in the community!

Local Hens
Sample Yard Sign
Use the Local Hens promotional materials to your advantage. The Local Hens brand provides premium egg cartons, farm stand advertising, and in-store merchandising options available for purchase to build your brand. There are many customizable options available to you also; create a stamp with your farm name and information or perhaps an egg stamp or sticker label will add value and a personalized touch to your cartons. This brand will let consumers know who you are and where to find you.

Local Hens
Click Here to Find a Farm Near You 
You might find Local Hens eggs in a supermarket or organic food store, a farmers market or roadside stand – maybe a neighbor just hands you a carton. The Local Hens brand helps small local egg producers bring their goods to market. With the Local Hens Farm Directory, consumers are directly linked to egg producers nearby.  By searching by farm name, city/state or zip code, you are able to locate local farms in your area. Look through the options and see if any of those farms fit your needs. Contact any farm directly to see about any products you are interested in.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Low Egg Production

Why Hens Stop Laying and How to Get Them Started Again.
by guest blogger Natalie Swanson 

It is not uncommon for a hens egg production slow and even stop, leaving flock owners with little to no eggs. The solution to this problem you ask? Lucky for you, I have the answer.

Here are the three most common reasons why hens slow or stop laying eggs.


#1. Shorter days and less daylight hours
 At the end of summer and fall, the shorter days and less daylight hours can greatly affect a hens laying production. The decrease in daylight hours can slow and even stop egg production. The most accepted method used by commercial and local small farmers alike, is to use artificial light year round to give the hens a long day no matter the season.

#2. Poor Nutrition
 Just like people need a well-balanced diet for our bodies to work well, hens need a well-balanced diet to maintain positive egg production! Maintaining a hens nutritional requirements can be met by providing enough calcium and salt in their diet. Ground limestone or oyster shells in addition to a supplemental amount of dietary salt can help boost egg production. Providing hens with feed that have these elements can help prevent decreased egg production. Poultry water protectors such as Carefree Enzymes Water Protector are a great way to make sure your birds are receiving clean water. Water protectors provide added digestive enzymes so hens are able to better absorb food. Water protectors also stop cross-bacterialization preventing one bird from contaminating the water, infecting other birds. Being sure that hens are not exposed to fleas, mites and lice can also help to decrease stress and increase production. Using products such as Poultry Protector from Carefree Enzymes can help to keep these pests under control.

#3. Broodiness
Broodiness is when a hen attempts to incubate and hatch her eggs. When hens are attempting to hatch their eggs, they will stop production. This is most commonly caused by stimulation from the long daylight hours in the spring and summer, as well as when the hen is allowed to accumulate eggs. The best way to prevent to broodiness is by gathering eggs every day and being sure they do not accumulate in the nests. This is also a good practice to ensure the quality of the eggs for human consumption. 

Although age is most always first to be blamed for slowing or ceasing in egg production, before you decide your hen is to old, try using some of the methods laid out above! Happy laying!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Green and Blue and Brown, Oh My!

by Guest Blogger Rachel Howard

Chicken eggs come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colors. Have you wondered why chicken eggs come in such a wide variety of colors? We all know that for the most part you can determine if a hen will lay white or brown eggs by the color of their earlobes. There are some exceptions to this rule but for the most part chickens with red or brown earlobes will lay brown eggs, while chickens with white earlobes will lay white eggs. A fact that is kind of amusing, because who figured out chickens have earlobes in the first place? But that's a blog for another day! So why do some egg colors vary so much as to become green or blue? Is there something wrong with your chicken, or is it just pure science?

Egg color is a lot like skin color in humans. The amount of pigment in the egg, determines the color the egg will be. All eggs start out white while inside the chicken; they then change when they are traveling through a hen’s oviduct. If the egg is not laid white, it means that during the formation process the egg received different types of pigments that permeated the shell. It’s interesting that the different types of pigment are applied at different times of the laying process. With brown eggs the pigment is late in the egg formation and the inside of the shell is white, but with blue eggs the pigment is applied early in the egg formation and the inside as well as outside of the shell is blue. 

White eggs have no pigment added to them from the time they begin the cycle, to when they are shipped off in The Egg Carton Store’s amazing egg cartons. A brown egg has the pigment protoporphyrin added during the formation of the egg. However, what about green eggs? Green eggs are laid by hens that possess both blue and brown egg genes, so green egg layers add two pigments before singing their egg-laying song!  It starts out with the brown egg pigment and then the blue egg pigment, oocyanin, gets added to the egg, resulting in an olive green color outer shell which is blue on the inside.

Now all this talk about egg color probably has your heart racing, but don’t worry! The eggs nutritional value and taste does not change depending on the egg color. So if you have a green egg, cook up some green ham to go along with it and enjoy your breakfast!

So what are the best egg layers for colorful eggs, and how can you show off your natural Easter Eggs? These top five chickens will give you a colorful basket in no time.
Easter Eggers (shown at right) These chickens are known for laying a variety of different egg colors. They lay a range from blue, green, and rose to a brown, olive, or cream.
Olive Eggers These birds lay exactly what their name says, a beautiful olive egg color that are perfect to display.
Araucanas A blue egg layer that will be sure to delight your customers.
Ameraucanas A more common version of the Araucanas that lay blue eggs that will be sure to start a conversation.
Penedesenca A bird that came from Spain, laying beautiful reddish-brown eggs that will wow the crowd.
Be sure to show of your colorful bunch with The Egg Carton Store’s new Clear Plastic Cartons!