Being my face is behind a table at every Farmers Market, I get asked some pointed questions, like the guy who said “Show me how local eggs are worth any more than the store ones.”
First answer, if you don’t notice that fresh farm eggs taste a whole lot better, then buy the store eggs.
Second answer, store eggs are marketing board eggs, and they keep a supply of 3 months to 6 months in storage so Ontario will not run out of eggs during times of poor production or high usage.
So the store egg is at least 3 months old. Do you keep any food in your fridge for 3 months, and expect it to still be just as good? If so, buy store eggs.
Third answer is local farm eggs are produced by real critters, running around, foraging some of their food, getting fresh air and exercise and chicken socializing, while the store eggs are produced in an egg factory of thousands of frankenbirds locked up in conditions best summarized in the smell of the place, it will bring tears to your citified eyes.
If you think the resulting eggs are ‘just as good’, buy store eggs.
Fourth answer is production cost – the store eggs are produced in large quantities, spreading fixed costs over a bigger volume; along with this, store eggs are heavily subsidized with your tax dollars, so naturally they are cheaper.
Average farm income in Canada consists of about 20% government subsidy of various kinds (OEDC 2015 figures). (US and European farmers even more). Much of this is semi – buried in things like subsidized crop insurance and marketing schemes, and I think I hear a rustle of farmers getting ready to call me a liar.
Anyway, the small local producer at your farmers market gets no subsidy – any that he is eligible for is too tied up in red tape to be worthwhile. The store eggs are of course marked up, the marketing board, transportation, distributor, wholesaler, retailer all demand a profit. Naturally grown local eggs avoid those costs, offsetting much of their extra production cost and lack of subsidy.
In fact if you compare local farmer’s market eggs with the ‘organic’ or ‘free range’ ones in the supermarket, they are in the same price range (and trust me, much better, ‘organic’ and ‘free range’ are mostly just advertising terms).
Next common question, “how come I can buy chicken or turkey on sale for $2 per pound in the supermarket, but chicken at the farmers market costs $6 per pound? Is somebody getting rich, or what?” First answer, supermarkets play games with their ‘sales’, the $2 per lb is a ‘loss leader’, and at that price it is a bargain. Regular price is more like $3.50 per lb. Second answer, see the above points regarding eggs – most apply to chicken.
Third answer, excessive regulation of small abattoirs, for example, every one of our chickens has to be inspected by a Professional Veterinarian as it goes into the abattoir, and the dead bird inspected again by a Professional Veterinarian before it can come out. In contrast, the factory chicken is ‘inspected’ by a high school dropout watching the procession of birds on a conveyor passing by his station at say 15 miles per hour.
Fourth answer, regulations allow the big guys to inject salt water, and assorted other stuff into the dead bird, up to 25% or more by weight. So that 10 pound turkey you buy at the store is really about 7 pounds turkey and over 2 pounds salt water. Fifth answer, real chicken or turkey is worth more – healthy birds living a healthy lifestyle, fed decent honest feed instead of crap are better for you and taste much better.
Maybe the best answer is that 75% or more of the dollar you spend at the farmers market stays here in the district, compared to say 15% of the dollar spent at a big chain. Help grow our own economy!
No, I do not grow or sell chickens or eggs.