Eggs are the Swiss Army Knife of food.
They are plentiful, cheap, healwthy, packed with protein and other nutrients, used in a variety of cooking methods, useful in many diets (especially non-dairy or non-meat diets), a staple for breakfast, and overall very tasty.
But what happens when the egg market becomes flooded?
Due to the large egg market, the majority of eggs are manufactured in large chicken houses that can mass produce hundreds of dozens of eggs per day. This makes it easier on your wallet, but there are several problems.
First, these mass produced eggs in large chicken houses are often the least healthy egg.
Second, these houses are often owned by large corporations which are not afraid to cut corners to get the cheapest product on the shelf so that you buy their eggs. The local farmer will have trouble playing in this game.
Third, this makes it very hard for organic and mobile pasture egg farmers to compete. Due to the cost of organic feed, more grassland for the chickens, and smaller flocks; farmers dedicated to healthy eggs have to charge more for their eggs.
And what happens when you have to charge more for a product?
Like anything else, more expensive eggs means they will not be bought as quickly, even if they may be better quality.
So why can’t organic or mobile pasture farms compete?
Why does it cost so much more to make a healthier egg?
Let’s look at five reasons why organic and mobile pastured eggs cost more to produce than the normal mass produced eggs in your local supermarket.
1. The hens produce fewer eggs
I can hear you already: If the chickens and eggs are healthier, they should produce more eggs, not less!
This logic makes sense at first, but the reality is that chickens kept in large houses are kept regulated to a science. Their feed, lighting, and environment are all fine-tuned to keep the hens laying at max production.
On the other hand, mobile pastured chickens follow natural weather cycles and patterns because they our outside. This results in fewer eggs, but the eggs that are laid are much healthier and tastier.
2. The hens face more dangers
Because the hens are free to be outside, they can face few natural predators. Many mobile pasture farmers will use some portable fencing or possibly guard dogs to help protect the flock, but some chickens will still be lost to nature.
How does this affect egg production?
Every hen that is lost to a predator must be replaced, resulting in higher costs in purchasing hatchery chicks and raising them. There is also the lost 6 months for the chick to mature and begin laying eggs.
3. More land is required
Large flocks kept in chicken houses only need 1.5 square feet of indoor space per hen to be considered “cage free.”
That’s not much space per hen, and it means a large chicken house can hold a lot of hens!
On the flip side, mobile pastured hens need a large grass space that they can be moved around periodically to keep the grass fresh. This means the farmer will need to own significantly more land which means higher operating and land costs.
4. The flocks are smaller
Because the flocks are kept in mobile chicken houses, and because they need adequate outdoor space, the flocks are smaller than a standard cage-free chicken house.
As a result, the cost per hen is higher to maintain the chicken house, grassland, and other overhead expenses.
5. There are more labor expenses
A large chicken house has relatively low labor expenses because all the equipment is stationary. Conveyors, cages, and feeding systems are all permanently installed in the barn, and therefore labor is kept to a minimum.
How are mobile pastured eggs different?
Because the chicken houses are mobile, farmers with mobile pastured chickens must spend time moving chicken houses and equipment around to different locations. This adds labor and vehicle expenses to the overall farm’s production.
The next time you are at the store and notice that mobile pasture eggs cost more than the normal eggs on the shelf, don’t assume that the farmer is simply trying to make a quick buck.
The farmer wants to provide you with a healthier egg with better nutrients and flavor.
In order to provide this better egg, the price will be higher because of the higher overhead and labor costs associated with mobile pasture eggs.
Instead, ask yourself this: Am I willing to pay a little bit more to have the peace of mind that I am purchasing the absolutely best egg that I can for my family?