Monday, October 24, 2011

Farm Fresh Eggs Hard to Find

My first taste of farm-fresh eggs came in spring when Mrs Elliott and I took a class in raising backyard chickens. The class was through C.O.C.C. and put on by the folks at Celebrate the Seasons on American Loop in S.E. Bend.

We decided that chickens required more care than we wanted to give, Mrs Elliott especially finding the idea of going out into the snow of winter every day to tend to them unappealing, so we had to take a pass on the idea. But we didn't take a pass on buying a dozen of their fresh eggs.

Jack found them revelatory. Such taste, such richness! It was like having your first cup of quality coffee from someone like Lone Pine or Thump after a lifetime of drinking Maxwell House.

And opening the carton was like opening a box of mixed chocolates: the eye is greeted with an assortment of eggs ranging in size from pretty darn small to quite large, and in various shades of green, browns and tans, and white. Uniform egg sizes and colors don't come from a random assortment of hens.

When eaten, my goodness. Jack vowed that supermarket eggs, with their uniformity and pallid, tasteless yolks, would no longer disgrace his breakfast plate.

So I continued to pop over to Celebrate the Seasons to buy eggs, a dozen at a time. It's an across-town drive for me, and they didn't always have eggs, and though I initially tried to call ahead to see if the trip would be worth it, they could not be counted on to answer the phone or return calls, so on a couple occasions, I returned empty-handed and had to subsist on supermarket eggs.

By happy chance I discovered that Devore's, the little hippy store on the west side, carried Great American Egg eggs and I tried a dozen and found them to be nearly as good as CTS's, but there was an availability problem there, too. Four times out of five there were no eggs to be had at Devores.

According to one of the fellows that worked there, Great American Egg diverted a lot of their eggs to their own booth at the farmer's markets and were selling the eggs for the same price as the store did, pocketing the difference between wholesale and retail price.

I twice attempted to buy my eggs from GAE's booth at the farmer's market, and they were sold out both times. Another vendor there also sold eggs, but they weren't as good.

Nature's Market in the Wagner Mall carries two brands of farm eggs, but they are spendier and also not as good, kind of straddling the world of factory eggs and farm eggs, age-, taste- and uniformity-wise. And they come in rattly clear plastic cartons. I rather preferred using the cardboard containers and returning them for possible re-use.

I struck out at Newport Market. They have a big selection of eggs, but all are the relatively-tasteless factory eggs. I guarantee that if you took an empty egg carton and filled it with one egg from each of the many brands they stock, you'd find they all tasted the same.

Ranging out to Whole Foods I found no fresh eggs. I buttonholed the egg guy to make sure I wasn't overlooking anything. "I won't lie to you," he said. "I grew up on a dairy farm and I know what you mean about fresh eggs being better than factory eggs, but we don't carry any."


So for this weekend, with a foodie houseguest, I wanted to have good eggs on hand for a Sunday omelette brunch. On Thursday I called CTS and was greeted by the answering machine. Without much hope of getting a response, I left a message anyway.

I was surprised the next day when Julie called me back on Friday. She said that egg production had been slow for a while due to the hens molting, but they had enough to set two dozen aside for me for pickup on Saturday.

But when we got there at midday, there was no Julie and there were no eggs. I was irritated.

That was my last straw with them. One expects a small operation to have an availability problem, but one shouldn't have to deal with being blown off.

There's gotta be a better way than dealing with flaky, undependable operations like that, and maybe this is as good as it's gonna get in Bend.

Or maybe not: Tom, the guy in charge of eggs at Newport Market, told me that the store was in negotiation with a poultry farm near Powell Butte to put farm-fresh eggs on the shelf.

Hurry up, Tom. You don't just sell crappy Yuban and MJB coffee, you also sell great coffee from local roasters; see what you can do in the egg department.

1 comment:

  1. Two comments:

    1. I've found that many of the small business operators here are, shall we say, rather casual about things like keeping regular hours and returning phone calls. And then they wonder why they go belly-up.

    2. I bet if you put an ad on craigslist you could turn up another supplier of farm-fresh eggs.


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