From Our Friends at The Works Bakery Cafe

(A Guest Post from our Friends at The Works Bakery Café! The Works has 8 delicious bakery locations throughout New England)

Sit back and grab an omelet. We’ve got a story for you.

You like eggs, right? At the Works, we buy, make and eat a LOT of eggs.

Which means a lot of chickens need to lay a lot of eggs. Farmers sort these oblong gifts of white-gold nutrition into five sizes from small to jumbo.

Here’s the thing. Generally speaking, we like big eggs. We like eggs that fill up a carton like the Hulk fills jeans. Big is not only beautiful, it’s the only thing our moon pie eyes can see.

But, chickens, man. Chickens… They lay what they lay. Big, small, medium. So what’s a chicken farmer to do?

Ten years ago Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs were swimming in petits oeufs when they met #TheWorks founder Richard French, who couldn’t find local, organic eggs at a price that would work for his customers. No recording of the conversation exists, but we have it on good authority that it went something like this:

RICHARD: “The Works needs eggs! So many eggs.”

PETE AND GERRY: “Dude, we have eggs.”

R: “Are you from New England? We try to be really thoughtful about where we get our food.”

P&G: “Yep. Monroe, NH.”

R: “Are your eggs organic? Any chance?”

P&G: “Organic, free range, from small family farms. Certified Humane. B Corp Certified. The works.”

R: (shakes his head, looks at the ground, grins, looks up to the sky, shakes his head again and says) “Wow. But man, premium eggs — that’s a path to the $12 breakfast sandwich.”

(There is a long pause, with a hint of pessimism hanging in the air. Then…)

P&G: “Do you care about size? Would small and medium sized eggs be okay?”

R: “Heck yeah. But can we get ’em already cracked? No way we can crack 400 eggs on a busy breakfast line.”

(P&G and R look at each other. A general feeling of “Dude, we’ve come this far, we can figure this out” fills the air.)

P&G: “Dude, we’ve come this far.”

R: “We can figure this out.”

NEARBY CHICKEN: Bravo, gentlemen! Strong regional economies start when producers and restaurants get together, tell each other what they need, see what products aren’t fitting into the market right now, figure out how to use them, and come up with a solution that benefits everybody. Creativity, practicality, patience, good will. Awesome. BWAAAAAAAAAWK.

Ten years on, The Works and Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs remain partners in getting awesome eggs to our customers.

 

Excuse Me, Why Do ‘Medium’ Eggs Exist?

In an article published by bonappetit.com Alex Beggs explains why medium eggs exist.

“So I called up Jesse LaFlamme, the chief executive farmer of Pete and Gerry’s organic eggs. Yes, I too was disappointed his name was neither Pete nor Gerry. (Okay, Gerry is Jesse’s father). He told me that medium eggs are typically from younger hens. They’re the hen’s first round, so to speak, so they’re smaller and have a thicker shell. He even thinks they might have a tastier yolk, but he admits, “that might be in my head.” Things get a bit scrambled in there. Too much? Sorry.”

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How Big Food Wants the FDA to Define “Healthy”

A recent article published by vitals.lifehacker.com explains how any food companies find the FDA’s definition of “healthy” to be out dated and are pushing for them to redefine what healthy really means, which is good news for the egg industry.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs: “As the owner [of] Pete & Gerry’s Organics LLC, a Certified Humane, free-range, network of small family farms, it’s not often that I see eye to eye with the [United Egg Producers], as we disagree on farming practices. Where we do agree is that eggs are a very healthy food.”

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Good Feed makes for Good Eggs

You are what you eat, as they say.

We all know that a good diet is essential to good health. That’s one reason many of us eat eggs. And yet, too often, as people, we don’t always do a great job with our own nutrition, ill-advised temptations being abundant. At Pete and Gerry’s, our organic, Certified Humane, free range hens have it a little bit better. To begin with, their “treats” are finding insects in the grass. And when it comes to their main meals, they get the benefit of PhD nutritionists as their personal chefs, something few of us enjoy.

Les Morrison, of Morrison Custom Feeds in Barnet, Vermont, a Pete & Gerry’s feed supplier, puts it this way “people food is in the stone age compared to what the hens get for balanced nutrition.” Feed mixtures are developed with an eye to making sure that a hens’ every nutritional need is met in terms of nutrients, protein, sodium-balancing bi-carbonates, ground limestone for developing a strong egg shell, electrolytes and much more.

Contrast that to the giant factory farms that make most of the eggs sold today which use a “least cost formulation” for their feed. That means exactly what it sounds like ­— whatever is the cheapest way possible to give the hens enough calories to lay eggs that day. You can see and taste the result in the eggs.

There are between 30 and 35 separate organic ingredients in our feed mix. And the mixture is adjusted continuously, based on the weather (cold or hot), the flock’s age and point in their laying cycle, general health, and a range of other factors. That’s why another of our feed advisors, Heritage Poultry Management Services, employs two full-time PhD animal nutritionists on their staff.

There is a lot of science to the way we formulate our feed. But one aspect of science that you won’t find in any of our feed is pharmaceuticals ­– something you will find in just about all feed that goes to factory farms, which make up 90% of the eggs sold in the U.S. According to Morrison, that’s just putting a Band-Aid on a problem that won’t actually fix it. “The way to keep birds healthy, besides feeding them properly, is to make sure their living environment is clean and not overcrowded” he says. “Good egg farmers are in their barns every day. They can see problems before they happen, sometimes just by listening to the birds” (quiet hen houses can be an indication of a virus starting to spread through the flock).

That’s why we don’t treat our free range hens prophylactically with drugs that are only going to decrease their resistance and then wind up in the eggs. We treat them with care instead.

Morrison concludes, after admitting to a weakness for potato chips in his own diet, that if he were to die and come back as a hen, he would hope to be a Pete and Gerry’s hen.

Big Changes to Our Small Farm

As those of you who have read past posts on this blog know, our farm up here in the Upper Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire was where it all started. Way, way back it was a dairy farm. Then my grandfather Les decided to try chickens, after he returned from World War II, because there were so many other dairy farms in the valley at that time. My father and mother converted the farm to Organic, Free Range back when barely anyone had ever heard of such a thing. They did this because they were being priced out of the egg market by giant agricultural factory farms that could vastly underprice anything they could do. In the process, they discovered the joy of farming in a humane, responsible way.

When I took over the family business, demand for our ethical Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs was growing very quickly and we were adding barns here on our property to meet it. It was then that I was struck by the fact that if we just kept adding more barns, pretty quickly, we would become just another giant egg producer. Maybe we would be a more ethical giant egg producer, but we would be a giant nonetheless. And that would mean pushing other small farms like we once were out of the way.

That’s when it hit me, why not support all the other small farms out there that were just like us when we started, but that don’t have the same opportunity from a sales and distribution standpoint as we do? Some 130 small family, partner farms later, Pete and Gerry’s is still growing by staying small and by supporting real families out there who still have a dream of farming responsibly while making a living.

So successful this has been, we’re now even managing to reduce the footprint of the home farm even more. At our peak, we had nine barns in use with over 100,000 hens on the property, all meeting the Certified Humane Free Range standard. If that sounds like a lot, it’s actually not that much when you consider that factory farm competitors routinely cram over 300,000 hens into a single barn and have millions on site. But it was still more than we wanted given our belief in a different type of farming model. In the past six months, by not repopulating barns whose flocks reached the natural end of their lifecycle, we are now down to just two barns and less than 40,000 hens.

We plan to always have Free Range hens on the home farm. We feel that the best way to be good stewards to our partner farms is to know exactly what their lives are like and what challenges they face. And it keeps one humble, standing in a pasture of hens every day, listening to what they have to say. Still, we’re very pleased that we’ve managed to meet the growing demand for our wonderful, free range, organic eggs by staying small ourselves and thereby benefiting other small farms and the countless communities they thrive in.

The 7 Best Clean Dairy and Dairy-Free Products

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs was named in one of the 7 Best Clean Dairy and Dairy-Free Products by cleaneatingmag.com.

“These top-quality, grade-A eggs come from free-range, certified-humane hens fed with 100% organic feed. $6, peteandgerrys.com for where to buy.”

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Organic’s New Animal Welfare Standards Are In Jeopardy

A recent article on forbes.com explains that the new organic welfare standards my be in jeopardy as the USDA announced important amendments to its animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry.

“Most companies operating under the USDA organic logo are also in favour of these new standards. Perdue Farms, the largest broiler chicken producer in America, supports the new standards as they plan to expand their organic business in the coming years. Pete & Gerry’s, the largest organic egg producer in the US, is already in compliance with the new rules.”

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Pete and Gerry’s Unveils Hard-Boiled Egg Pouches

In an article published by groceryheadquarters.com, Lindsey Wojcik discusses Pete and Gerry’s Hard-Boiled Organic Eggs that are now offered in a resealable, portable pouch which are great for healthy snacking.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic eggs are available at more than 9,600 retail locations, coast to coast. The egg producer has Certified B-Corporation status, and the company’s Certified Humane, Free Range eggs have grown as consumer demand for more ethically sourced eggs has driven the category, officials add. “

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How Pete & Gerry’s cage-free eggs are a model for other small farmers

In a recent article Tonya Garcia of marketwatch.com explains how Pete and Gerry’s cage free eggs can be a good model for other business to follow.

“In addition to providing customers with high-quality eggs, according to Laflamme, Pete & Gerry’s wants to provide its small farmers with a livelihood, which has become increasingly difficult in the face of jumbo-sized agricultural companies. (Executives at Monroe, N.H.-based Pete & Gerry’s also express a desire to bring back a way of farming that’s focused on the animals and the environment.)”

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Organic Chickens Get More Room To Roam

In a recent article published by npr.org, Dan Charles explains just how much space should be provided for an organic hen to live.

“According to the new rules, farmers must provide at least one square foot of outdoor space for each 2.25 pounds of poultry in their flock. According to Jesse Laflamme, CEO of Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, that translates to about two square feet per egg-laying hen, or about an acre for a flock of 20,000.”

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