Although my parents, and my parent’s parents all grew up on farms with chickens roaming free and happily laying eggs, I grew up with grocery store eggs. I continued to buy grocery store eggs well into my 48th year on this planet.
My first experience with non-grocery store eggs was done with some apprehension. A friend gifted me one dozen eggs… and the eggs were not white. Well, some where white, but others were various shades of blue, green, and brown. They were beautiful. I could not believe eggs could be so beautiful.
I have to admit though, that I had a few days of worry about eating said eggs. For some reason, because they didn’t come from a grocery store, I figured that maybe, just maybe, I’d crack one open and a baby chick would land on my fry-pan and peep at me and I’d have raise him/her to adulthood. Or maybe, just maybe, by handling a farm-fresh egg, that I’ll get some disease from chicken poop. Or maybe, just maybe, the eggs will be rotten, I’d stink up the entire apartment building and we’d be evicted.
My worries were completely unfounded. I finally cracked those eggs for breakfast, and I was fast tracked to a new level of egg appreciation. They had flavour! Egg flavour!
Now, I only know what I know, and eggs are bought from the grocery store. I have friends who frequent the farmers’ market for their eggs on weekends. I visit the market only when I am in a state of zen and don’t mind the idea of being jostled around by people with bags of carrots, pushing baby carriages, drinking coffee, and stopping to talk with their neighbours RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FREE SAMPLES at the pesto-pasta people.
My last visit to the Strathcona Market was at high noon. I was talking to Michael over my shoulder about what I planned to do with the garlic I bought, and should we invest in an organic chicken, and asked if we should have coffee here, or go somewhere else? The response I received was NOT from my husband, but from some bewildered man who found himself between Michael and me. I was embarrassed. The bewildered man, I like to think, was disappointed he wasn’t coming for coffee with us, and Michael split his gut laughing at me. I haven’t really been on speaking terms with Farmers’ markets since.
Eggs. Let’s talk about those eggs. I knew GOOD eggs existed. Grocery store eggs were edible, but not GOOD. The Farmers’ Market have GOOD eggs, but there is the crowds, and you have to be at your vendor by a certain time to secure eggs, and that all seemed like too much work for me on a Saturday morning.
Enter the University of Alberta’s Heritage Egg program. Here, chickens are raised in an environment they can roam free, are local, and the people that raise them are SERIOUSLY into chickens and eggs and want to provide the consumer the highest quality, natural eggs.
The premise is sort of fun too. You pay a fee and adopt a chicken. I agonized a little too long over this process. The idea of adopting a chicken was something I took Very Seriously. I decided on a Light Sussex, and named her Imogen-the-Chicken.
Your adoption/fee entitles you to a dozen eggs every two weeks. At first, early in the season the eggs are quite small… significantly smaller than what you receive at the grocery store. As the chickens mature, the eggs to get bigger.
When you pick up your eggs, you are not getting your own chickens eggs. You get an assortment of Heritage chicken eggs, and this I promise you, is Very Exciting. You will get some large eggs, and small eggs, and eggs in between. You will get white eggs, brown eggs, beige eggs. In all cases, the eggs are beautifully fresh and have the most wonderful flavour.
In the past year, there were a few weeks we had to resort to grocery store eggs… at first we bought our regular cheapest available eggs, and were disappointed with the blandness. We started to invest in the more expensive “free range” eggs, etc., and although marginally better, were not best.
Michael and I have come to the end of our egg-season with the Heritage Egg program at the University of Alberta and Imogen-the-Chicken is well on her way to becoming a stewing chicken. We loved the drive out to the South Campus every Thursday and/or Saturday to pick up our eggs. We are not too sure if we are ready to commit to another year, but will certainly support the project in other ways.
My appreciation for the simple egg has grown. If we owned our own home, I would certainly be thrilled if our neighbours were raising chickens for eggs. I have to be honest and say that it is something we wouldn’t pursue because we are never at home… this is why we don’t have children or pets.
I adore chickens now, and if I wasn’t going through a phase of reducing the stuff we have in our home, I am convinced I would be a collector of all things chicken – paintings of chickens, tablecloths with a chicken print, chicken napkins, chicken salt and pepper shakers, and a chicken adorned apron.
If you are a grocery store egg buyer, don’t feel bad. The grocery store eggs are a convenience. I hope with this post though, that it might nudge you a little towards trying farm fresh eggs. Try it at least once. I promise you won’t be disappointed.