Eggs categorized as ‘Free Run’ have surged in popularity over the past few years, as Canadian consumers learn more about our food systems. Animal rights activists have done a great job in getting consumers to think about the ethics regarding the conditions behind the food they purchase and consume, especially when it comes to dairy and eggs.
This is excellent! At 100km Foods, we really value transparency and traceability, and we’ve carefully vetted our meat, dairy and egg producers to ensure the animals are treated with care and dignity.
But things have shifted somewhat. As the term ‘free run’ became something consumers look for when purchasing eggs, the bigger, corporate controlled farms also wanted to cash in on the ethical impulse behind consumer purchases. Now, you can find free-run eggs in almost any grocery store.
What makes Homestead Eggs different?
So what makes the Free Run eggs from Homestead a cut above the rest? Why can’t you find their eggs in any of the big retailers and grocery store chains?
We spoke to Pat White at Homestead Farm about what free run really means for her eggs, she gave us great insight. Homestead has been our long-time farm partner at 100km Foods. Homestead is both a small grading station and has a flock of their own, in operation since 1983. They also source from neighbouring Amish and Mennonite farm communities nearby.
The major difference with these Free Run eggs is that they come from small flocks that receive a high level of care. Like, REALLY small flocks. In total, Homestead sources eggs from only 55 different flocks with hundreds of birds. With larger free-run egg farmers, they have flocks easily numbering in the thousands.
Pat (who has developed personal relationships with the farmers she sources from) also pointed out that in many of these rural communities, looking after the chicken flocks and selling the eggs is a job that often falls to women. In fact, for some of these women, it is one of their only sources of income to buy groceries and other necessities for their family. Flocks tend to frighten very easily, which can disrupt their laying patterns. Since these flocks are an essential part of these farmers livelihoods, they want to make sure the hens keep laying. They take great care to ensure their flocks are kept calm, happy, and cared for.
What else sets them apart?
Homestead is also a very small grading station that uses less automated machinery with a more involved approach. They have various employees at different stations along the line, all of them paying close attention to any imperfections. There’s even someone who has a special light they shine on each and every egg to detect any interior imperfections! This kind of care and detail oriented attention to grading means Homestead grades 50 cases an hour, as opposed to the big guys who grade up to 400 cases an hour. And even though they might grade a little slower, they make up for it in the absolutely top notch quality of all their eggs.
This is why we have adjusted the description on Homestead’s Free Run eggs. They aren’t just average eggs you can find in any grocery store – they truly are ‘Small-Flock.’
By: Genrys Goodchild