Petaluma Eggs: The Good vs. the Perfect

Last week, the Press Democrat reported Petaluma Poultry was involved in a controversy regarding whether or not chickens laying eggs that would be sold as “organic” be pasture raised in order to obtain the coveted “organic” designation. 

Currently, eggs can be sold as “organic” provided that they are fed organic non-GMO feed, have access to the outdoors, and are not raised in cages. Organic egg producers cannot use antibiotics except during an infectious outbreak and only the birds must be allowed to molt naturally within the flock.

We have purchased the lion’s share of our eggs at Oliver’s from Steve at Petaluma Egg Farms for years. His “organic” eggs are produced in adherence to these standards. We have toured his facilities, and we believe in Steve’s integrity, his concern for his animals, and quality of the eggs his chickens produce. The chicken houses employed by Petaluma Eggs provide plenty of space to move and stretch their wings. They have access to screened porches, which are rarely used because chickens tend to huddle in a flock.

Organic egg production is regulated by animal welfare audit system. Mistreatment of the chickens could potentially lead a farmer to losing his organic certification. Arguments from animal activist organizations that egg production is cruel and inhumane can be salient. Male chicks that are born on organic or free-range egg farms may still be discarded, by the use of lethal gas, because they do not produce eggs. Most “Organic” and “Cage and Range Free” producers still do maintain the use of “beak trimming” as a means to lessen injury to the birds. However, pasture raised chickens can be exposed to Avian Flu, predators, and require huge amounts of land per egg produced. As such, pasture raised eggs are very expensive, and the supply is inconsistent. We carry pasture-raised eggs from Wylan Farms in Petaluma. They currently run $5.49 a dozen when we can get them.

Critics of current organic standards often extoll claims that pasture eggs are more nutritious then massed produced organic eggs. Data from reliable research is scarce; however, some small studies suggest the nutritional content of eggs from genuine free-range hens (hens that forage daily on a grass range) is superior to that of eggs produced by conventional means. These studies report higher levels of Omega 3 and Vitamins A and E, and lower levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and Omega 6.

So here’s the rub. Should we sacrifice the good for the perfect? Producers like Steve at Petaluma Egg farm produce a nutritious, organic, non-GMO product, from chickens that are treated better than those in factory facilities that we’ve seen in films like Food Inc. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

That being said, Petaluma Egg Farms is the last commercial egg producer in Sonoma County of any scale. It connects us to a time when Petaluma was known as the Egg Capital of the World.

I don’t think Petaluma Farms should be required to give its organic hens access to soil outdoors because it would endanger the birds’ lives (other wildlife and disease) and significantly raise the price of organic eggs.

The chicken houses give the birds plenty of space to move around yet they still huddle together. The outside screen porches that they do have access to seem to be rarely used. It’s hard to imagine, but the over 10,000 chickens that share a house seem quite happy and it’s quite clean.

If anyone wants to buy an egg from a chicken that has access to the outdoors they can by our pasture eggs from Wyland Farms in Penngrove. They’re $5.49 a dozen.

No comments yet. Add the first comment

Add Comment

4 Locations to Serve Sonoma County