Chicken-Speak and Freeze-Dried Mealworms: How I Came to Love Local Eggs

The egg industry in the U.S. is gigantic. It is estimated that we consume about 217,424,000 eggs per day –which translates to about .68 eggs per person. That seems like one heck of a lot of omelets (and chickens). So it is understandable that there is much concern about whether all of those eggs are good for us as well as for the yeoman hens that produce them. In addition, we are confronted in our supermarkets with row after row of alternative egg possibilities, including free range, cage free, omega something or the other, and, heaven forbid, even just plain everyday eggs.

Variety of eggs

I am not going to offer any practical, scientific, or humanitarian principles to help decide on what kind of eggs to buy, if any (NPR has a good discussion of the nutritional value here). But I do want to chat a bit about eggs that are local – well, local in my neighborhood here in Glen Ellen. In this regard I can’t help but think about the hilarious episode on the TV series Portlandia, “Is the Chicken Local?.”    Essentially, the story line involves a couple in a restaurant going to great lengths to find out about the background of the chicken that is on the menu, beginning with asking the waitperson if it is local. They go so far as to visit the rural commune where the chicken was raised before deciding on whether to order the chicken, whose name is Collin by the way.  You will have to see the entire episode to find out if they order the chicken.

Colilin the chicken

Collin from  Portlandia

My local egg experience all started soon after we moved to our Glen Ellen neighborhood and we noticed that someone on the street above us had goats in the small field next to the road. It was the perfect place to walk our grandkids to let them feed grass and leaves to the goats through the fence. I did notice a small “eggs for sale” sign but at the time was more interested in entertaining the grand kids than getting eggs. In fact, I had no idea who lived there and was somewhat apprehensive that the owner might not approve of kids feeding the goats.  I was sure the owner was watching us scornfully from the house though the slightly parted curtains.

It was probably over a year later that I finally got the nerve to knock on the door to inquire about eggs.  That’s when I met Sandy the “goat lady” – who would soon be known as Sandy our “egg lady” and is now Sandy our good friend (along with her partner Stacey).  I was quite relieved that she didn’t disapprove of my grand kids feeding her goats.

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Our grandson Moss feeding Sandy’s goat in 2013

When Ann decided to do this blog on eggs, I thought it was time to get a closer look at the chickens from whence our eggs come. Up until then I had only seen them scurrying around in Sandy’s field or behind a fence in the chicken yard.  Sandy graciously opened her chicken yard for me and gave me free reign to get intimate with her chickens.  She assured me that throwing them freeze-dried mealworms is about as intimate as one can get with chickens! It turned out that the “girls,” as Sandy calls them, were a delight, despite Sandy’s comment that their very favorite treat would be a slimy slug – a mental image I try to avoid when enjoying one of their eggs (does it ever bug you when wait-folks come to clear your table and they ask if you are still “enjoying”  or “working on” your salad?  Is the word “eating” off-putting to people nowadays?).

I am not sure what I expected, but going through that gate was like entering another world.  And a much better world than what I just walked out of I would have to say, what with the aftermath of our wildfire chaos and the current national political morass.  For a while, I was caught up in their world of daily chicken life and routine.  It actually seemed appealing, although I could not tell you why exactly.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t freeze-dried mealworm envy.

What fascinated me most was the ongoing conversation they seemed to have while they went on with their business of milling about looking for tidbits. I tried to imagine what on earth they could be talking about. Was it idle gossip? Deep philosophical exchanges about what came first or why cross a road?  Secret coded plans to escape and become really free range birds? I guess I will never know.  Maybe you can figure it out:

But I do know that the everyday, taken-for-granted egg now has a new and elevated meaning for me. The American Egg Board in 1976 coined the slogan “The Incredible Edible Egg”  and since has spent millions of dollars to raise the image of eggs in American minds  (something I will discuss soon in a future blog).  But for me to be convinced of the wonders of eggs it took only a small flock of local chickens .  And they work for chicken feed (or if they’re lucky, freeze-dried mealworms).





  1. Helen Weaver says:

    Loved your take on chickens, eggs, & the chicken dance. Especially loved the name of the chicken, Collin. Seems I knew some one with that name.


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