Perhaps nothing has been so devastating to traditional heritage poultry breeds as the development of hybrid specialty layers, raised in concentrated factory settings, by commercial producers. They have created a marketing monopoly, built on a couple of breeds, that is hard to break or even see through to the illusion that they feed us. This lie, along with the odious deception that is commercial milk, has deprived us of our American agricultural heritage and made us dependent on ersatz products with compromised nutritional value.
Factory-style egg operations are based on sheer volume from concentrated space. Though they gain only pennies per dozen sold, their low prices make it challenging for customers to select more costly, yet far more wholesome, options. The "benefits" to us are mass produced eggs so cheap that we have come to view the egg, possibly Nature's most perfect food, as a throw-away commodity. The real benefits are for the commercial egg industry, which undermines any true local competition.
In factory style egg-production, hens are viewed as egg-laying machines. They are so tightly packed into their living quarters that they cannot turn, stretch, or flap their wings. They are pushed for the highest possible production, at the earliest age, with the lowest possible food intake, and at eighteen months, when production might naturally begin to slacken off for a molt, they are destroyed.
Moreover, hybridized factory layers, sex-links and the like, are genetic dead ends and completely oil-dependent. Because they are unable to breed pure, egg factory owners must repurchase stock on a yearly basis from far away hatcheries. This, of course, increases the carbon footprint of every egg. Unfortunately, believing that their customers will not pay for heritage eggs, most "local" egg producers now use these factory birds for their own market egg production, which just brings the factory to their backyard, making them as dependent on commercial layers as the Big Boys.
For our ancient heritage poultry, these precision-bred factory layers are a death knell. If we do not begin to use heritage breeds for local egg production, the next decade will see the demise of many traditional breeds of poultry, impoverishing us as food-loving consumers, and leaving us with an ever dwindling roster of poultry breeds capable of producing for us in a post-oil world.
At Yellow House Farm, we use only heritage breeds for the production of our market eggs. As we procure stock to establish breeding populations of the breeds we are trying to save, our layers come directly from our farm. Our goal is to envigorate and rehabilitate these breeds such that they are with us for another generation of food lovers.
Not so long ago, most eggs produced in the USA came from local farms, specializing in one or two heritage breeds. Different breeds produce eggs of different size and color. Thus, one region's eggs differed from those of another region depending on which breed the local farmers raised. Perfectly uniform size and color is a thing of factories; good, natural chickens lay eggs with a whole range of sizes and colors. At Yellow House Farm, it is our joy to provide our customers with a variety pack of eggs, some smaller, some larger, some lighter, some darker, each representing a piece of history.
Most European foundational breeds lay a white or tinted (cream-colored) egg, whereas Asiatic foundational breeds lay brown eggs. As composite breeds were developed in America and Europe, the result was to combine the thrift and productivity of foundational European breeds with the novelty of the Asian brown egg. In New England, where much of our local poultry production in the latter half of the nineteenth century through the period before World War II was dominated by new composite breeds, brown eggs rose to the fore as the norm for egg color. However, knowing that the White-faced Black Spanish and the Dorking are generally accepted as the first breeds to come to the New World with European settlers, white eggs have a much older American history.
In 2009, Yellow House Farm eggs will come from three outstanding heritage breeds. White Dorking lay a medium to large sized tinted egg. White Houdans lay a large white egg, and Anconas lay a medium to large sized white egg. Each carton represents hundreds, even thousands, of years of continuous sustainable agriculture. Even though Yellow House Farm heritage eggs are more costly than those produced by hybrid layers, we believe that they possess a greater overall value for our agrarian Renaissance. Our customers have told us time and again how much they enjoy the freshness and variety of the eggs that come from our farm. We are grateful and excited to reintroduce these eggs to Seacoast area tables. Within our relationship as local farmers and consumers these breeds find a new home and haven. Buon Appetito!