As we ramp up the egg business, I am puzzled about how to convince the hens to lay in the clean straw-bedded nests provided them rather than the warm red clay. It’s tough to wash red clay stains off green Americauna eggs. In the customers’ dozens, I keep replacing greens with lovely browns, and putting the “ugly” eggs in our side of the ‘fridge for the family to eat.  But, it’s a bummer because green eggs are such a treat for folks. That’s an on-farm problem. We will entice them into the straw. However, it led me to reading a bit about the grading of eggs.

Apparently, our stained eggs would never be graded. I think 1/32nd of the egg can have a stain. Any more than that, and they must be labeled “stained” or “dirty” or something similarly awful sounding. Who wants to buy such an egg?  So, though we exceed Grade AA standards on every other score, primarily because of freshness, we still seem to “fail” when measured against the large scale agriculture hens. That our hens get out in the sun and enjoy bugs and freedom is irrelevant.  If we do not pass the “stain” test, we cannot make the grade. If we do not make the grade, we can’t call them “fresh”, even though they are far fresher when they reach our customers than any egg on a grocery shelf.

Fortunately, a lot of folks intuitively and essentially ‘get’ that small farms cannot (and should not) compete with, or be measured against, large farms (not that they’d want to be.)  Even if we ‘know’ this though, the details and “whys” are sometimes fuzzy. The “stains” rule is one of those details. The egg industry has made it illegal for me to call my eggs fresh.

I can hear the market caller:   “Stained eggs!  Get your stained eggs!   Backyard chickens lay where they think best, in their own nest! ”  And along with that one, a sign saying “Newly laid’ NEVER JUST “Fr*sh!”   Discerning customers will raise an eyebrow when someone mentions “organic”.   Knowingly they’ll ask, “Yes, organic eggs. And, are they stained?”

Ah well. We sell gorgeous, healthful eggs, with high-standing orange yolks. We enjoy them daily at breakfast, and that is enough reward.

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