One glance at the photo of three egg yolks on the Brownie Points blog this past week is enough to convert almost anyone to fresh eggs from pasture-raised chickens. A deep golden-orange yolk sits between two pale and pathetic-looking specimens (though the others are both organic co-op eggs). These golden eggs are from the Eastside Egg Co-operative in Portland, Oregon.
The egg co-op is an innovative program, spearheaded by Holly and Patrick of the urban homesteading blog Letter from Hen Waller. They announced news of the program back in May, with a blog post titled “Chicken Herders Wanted.” Interested volunteers would sign up for one-hour shifts to take care of the chickens once a week, and would receive a dozen eggs in exchange. There was a work party to build the chicken coop, which is rotated amongst the vegetable fields at Zenger Farm, a six-acre, nonprofit, educational farm in southeast Portland. The excess eggs are sold at local farmers’ markets.
McAuliflower, the blogger behind Brownie Points, isn’t a full-time member of the egg co-op, but she serves as substitute chicken herder when needed. Still, the experience has been an eye-opener for her. “Now I realize what hogwash a label like ‘cage-free’ can be with chickens. The key to these chickens is free-range. Cage-free isn’t good enough for me anymore.”
The Eastside Egg program is an exciting example of what might be possible with urban farming. As Patrick writes on the Hen Waller blog, “This is the farm of the future. It is small; full of a variety of plants and animals; within city limits; on public land; and run by citizen volunteer workers, who produce food for themselves and members of their community.”
One look at the intensely golden yolk of an Eastside egg and you might sign up for chicken herding, too.