Why Support a Pasture Raised Egg Farm in the Winter
November 15, 2023
I have a few reasons for you to support your local pasture raised egg farm in the winter. We farm in Minnesota, we obviously have winter with cold and snow. This isn’t suitable for chickens to be on pasture during our winter months. On our farm, they go inside a building to protect them from the wind and snow. It also allows us to have thawed water for the hens with below freezing temperatures outside.
It’s still local to you. Imagine how much energy and fuel it takes to get a pasture raised egg to MN from the Southern United States, compared to your local farm.
You want your farmer to still be in business come spring and summer. Careful planning by the farmer enables them to have year-round eggs to sell, and year-round cash flow. Also, if a farmer has too many eggs in the winter, they will downsize their flock size and not have the extra eggs during the summer months.
The hens typically still get stored/dried forages. Chickens being omnivores, don’t get all their nutrition from forages. The pasture, and the insects, are a supplement to their formulated balanced production grain feed. It’s relatively easy to continue feeding forages to the chickens through the winter, in their winter housing. This is something we do on our farm.
You can’t depend on yolk color to determine how the bird was raised. The egg industry as a standard knows the consumer wants nicely colored egg yolks, so there are yolk color enhancers added to feed. Even your big box store brands of “pasture raised eggs” feed yolk color enhancers in their feed to have a consistent product between all the farms they buy eggs from for their brand. (Yolk color enhancing feed additives needs its’ own post.) Here is a reason knowing your farmer is an advantage, because you can ask them. Can you ask the grocery/co-op store? Will you get an answer with integrity from the big brand aggregator?
It still is a high quality, highly nutritious egg product. We feed the same high quality grain feed in the winter that we feed in the summer. We may be changing the protein or energy levels slightly to help the hens adjust to the temperatures. But it’s still the same whole grains as the majority used in our ration, custom milled at a local feed mill, and not all grain byproducts = less complete nutrition = less expensive grain. We don’t cut costs at the expense to nutrition.
The small family farm is a very small percentage of the “farms” producing food in our country. Small family farms, defined by grossing under $350,000 annually by the USDA, produced about 18% of the production in 2021. That’s only 18% of the food distribution system that is decentralized, localized and not susceptible to collapsing if a couple of those farms go out of business. Or their business is shut down. Are you ready to grow everything you want to eat if we aren’t here? Number one reason to support small family local farms.
Here are how our hens spend their winter in Minnesota:
We have two groups of laying hens, one stays in our mobile range coop all winter, and the other flock is inside a pole shed building with access to outside with our cows.