Most people assume, or are told, that it’s just not possible to raise such chickens on a larger commercial production scale. But, not only is it possible, Handsome Brook Farm is doing just that. Handsome Brook Farm has reinvented tradition and is setting the standard for excellence: this is how chickens should be raised. These are the eggs our family buys.
The availability of pasture-raised eggs at the grocery store is new, at least in my part of the world. When I think back, about ten years ago, cage free and organic eggs were just barely becoming available in US grocery stores. While cage free and organic are a step up from caged eggs, the terms cage free and organic do not actually mean much at all in terms of sunlight and grass, and do not even guarantee quality outdoor access (although you would think that they would), and this is when I started seriously considering raising my own chickens. Pasture raised eggs were simply not available in any grocery store near me. Cage-free chickens are still restricted to about the size of a piece of typing paper, in a windowless barn, and certified organic doesn’t guarantee outdoor access: many organic operations meet an outdoor access requirement with very small cement floored screen porches tacked onto giant barns. I don’t know how American agriculture has arrived at a point where sunlight and grass are rarities for livestock, but it has.
Within the past year or two, I first came across Handsome Brook Farms and pasture raised eggs in the local Price Chopper. I bet they might be available near you. And if they aren’t, they likely will be soon.
When you choose food at the grocery store, you are voting with the dollars you spend, you are voting for the food you want to see, and potentially nudging, a bit at a time, a change in direction towards the better. Consumer demand fuels growth and change in what is available, and that is why organic and then pasture raised eggs even became available for purchase at the local grocery store. The growth rate of organic food sales has been increasing ten percent each year since 2010. This growth is amazing when compared to the three percent growth of total food sales. And, organic foods sales only make up five percent of the total food sales, so there is room for more growth. This is due to food dollar voting: creating markets, evolving standards and products to meet demand. While our family cannot afford to eat entirely organic or local, or grass-fed, we can make small purchases in eggs and milk and fruit and vegetables and grains that support a better, healthier way of life, and that is why we buy Handsome Brook Farm eggs.
Pasture raised eggs come from hens that know what sunlight and grass are. They can hunt and peck and frolic as gawkily as they please in the great outdoors. These chickens have a safe shelter to return to at night, and the pasture to explore by day. Eggs from chickens that have access to the outdoors, to grass and bugs, have been shown to have more vitamins and lower fat and cholesterol than “conventionally raised” chickens. Take another look, this is how chickens should be raised:
I was so impressed with these eggs, the network of Handsome Brook farms, and the standards of care on their web site, that I decided to post about them here on Bean & Bantam. I strongly encourage you to look for their eggs in your grocery store–and to try them. I request your food dollar vote towards this company, if you please (and thank you). I have no affiliation with Handsome Brook Farm, and this post is not sponsored, I just very much like the way they raise chickens, and I want to see them grow until they are available in every city, town and store.
I contacted Handsome Brook Farm Co-CEO Betsy Babcock by email to ask her some questions, and here they are, with her answers:
Q: You grew from an initial five hens to providing Handsome Brook Farms eggs across the country. Can you tell me how you decided to pursue pastured poultry commercially? Was there a “watershed’ moment or a more gradual process in making the decision to scale up from home production or local production to making these eggs more widely available?
BB: Our initial growth was spurred by the encouragement of our Bed and Breakfast guests, who raved about how much better our eggs tasted than anything they could find in grocery stores. After doing some research we realized that it was because grocery store egg hens never go outdoors, and ours did. We started selling at our local grocery store, then the entire chain (Hannaford). Our big “break” was when FreshDirect took us to New York City and we saw the incredible positive response and we realized that there was market demand. We had to make a choice as to whether to grow our own flock, or to scale up by working in partnership with area small farms. It seemed counter to our philosophy to become “big farm”, so we opted to bring in local farms into our farm group – the best decision we ever made.
Q: Is there a set chicken breed used by Handsome Brook Farm?
BB: We use a Rhode Island Red cross.
Q: What does the future hold for Handsome Brook Farm… where do you see the company in five years?
BB: Our goal is to have our Handsome Brook Farm Pasture Raised Eggs in every grocery chain in the United States within the next few years, and to have our group of farms grow from 40 family farm to 100+ family farms. We will continue to emphasize animal welfare/pasture raised practices and quality, and our commitment to sustainable principles. Our daughter, Lindsey is now involved in the company – which is incredibly exciting for us.
Q: If you could sit down to breakfast (cooked with pastured poultry eggs of course) with anyone in this world, living or dead, who would it be?
BB: Our dream breakfast would be Jesus ( who would ask the blessing and give spiritual insight), Richard Branson (for entrepreneurial advice), and our grandparents, who have had such a huge part in shaping our lives.
So there you have it: Handsome Brook Farm. Reinventing tradition, setting the standard for excellence in eggs and the way chickens should be raised. Vote with your food dollars for sustainable American agriculture, chickens and livestock that know what grass and sunlight are.