Have you ever visited an egg farm? The closest I have come to being an egg farmer was when my grandpa hatched chicks for me and we had chickens in the old chicken coop on our family farm. In a very short time frame, they were eaten by a sly fox and my cousin’s dog Daisy.
My egg farming days were over.
This week through a farm tour I was a part through my work in agriculture, I toured an enriched colony egg barn which is a part of JS West family farms.
We learned that before you enter the barn you need to put on some farm fashion.
Rockin’ farm fashion I think.
We also had to wash our feet (shoes are covered in plastic covers) and wash our hands.
We had 5th generation egg farming family members Mike West and Jill Benson as our tour guides.
They are cutting edge with technology and are also the first in the United States to build an enriched colony barn for their chickens. 151,088 chickens were in the barn when we visited. Mike knew that exactly from the numerous computer monitors that track the chickens, how much they are eating, drinking and the temperature of the barn. As Mike showed us the barn my favorite line he said was “no one cares for these chickens more than we do.”
The chickens were much more content and certainly safer than the chickens we once had on the farm that were eventually eaten by the fox and dog. They also were a lot cleaner. The barn was so clean I could have sat down and had lunch on the floor of it.
Jill has a passion for the family business and that shined as she proudly talked to us about the space the chickens in the enriched colony barn have. They like their scratching pad and prefer to be in flocks of 60 or so chickens.
But the chickens like to lay their eggs in the dark.
The chickens have unlimited access to grain with a constant conveyor of grain outside their coops.
I learned about the egg cleaning, safety and packaging. I thought it was interesting to know that a human hand never comes into contact with the eggs.
I also got to peek in at the USDA Poultry Program quality control inspector. She has been inspecting eggs on American egg farms for 18 years. Now that’s a commitment.
One of the most surprising factors was the lack of smell in the egg laying barn. Between the egg laying facilities are almond orchards and on the other side of them is a barn that the chicken manure is stored where it is then sold for organic fertilizer. Plus the almond trees love chicken manure.
JS West has “Hens Live” cameras on their website. I saw it, smiled and waved. If you happen to spend your day watching egg laying chickens online you maybe saw me?
JS West eggs are distributed under 250 labels. An egg is laid in the morning and headed to your grocery store shelf by evening.
I’ll definitely be looking differently at the eggs I buy the next time I make a family favorite like Crab Quiche, thinking of the farmers who raise the chickens that produce the eggs we love.
What’s your favorite recipe with eggs?