By Tom Havran
My organic living “Aha!” moment was when I experienced the difference between real, farm-fresh eggs and those from factory farm, caged hens.
Around 1971, at age 9 or so, my first set of chores was to tend a flock of laying hens (leghorns) in the ramshackle chicken coop on the farm that I grew up on. I remember their snowy white feathers, bright yellow legs and jiggling red combs as they scurried and scratched about around my legs. This, my first lesson in taking responsibility consisted of many tasks: feeding and watering the birds, cleaning and changing their bedding, gathering and washing the eggs.
Decades before organic agriculture and food certification programs became official regulated policy, my chicken-tending chores were essentially an uncertified organic process on our traditional family farm. With little or no herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics or hormones my dad grew the grain that he ground into the feed that I fed the chickens. The leghorns were free to range all over the farm and into the garden, supplementing their rich diet with insects and greens.
When we wanted a snack, my mom would let us fry ourselves an egg from those hens and I’ve never had a better egg since. The shells were hard, thick and not prone to breaking. They made a loud, satisfying crack on the rim of the skillet. The yolks were an intense golden yellow color that bordered on orange and they formed a nearly perfect half sphere sitting in the hot oil. The whites were heavy and firm, holding together nicely in an oval, wholesomely-gelled mass around the yolk. The eggs were easy to fry and flip, and delicious to eat — intensely flavored, the yolks creamy, rich and silky, the whites firm with a pleasant, toothsome chewy-ness.
Years after my childhood, I came to know non-organic eggs that came from factory caged hens that never saw the sun or breathed fresh air. Because these birds were, and still are, kept alive with powerful supplements, antibiotics and highly modified monotypic diets, the eggs produced are terrible. The shells are thin, weak and crumpling; the yolks anemic, pale yellow and prone to breaking; and the whites thin, watery and running all over the skillet. Worst of all, the flavor is insipid and barely detectable, so remarkably different than the wonderful eggs I grew up on.
So, remembering what an egg was meant to look and taste like, and how a chicken is meant to be raised and cared for, came to be my organic living “Aha!” moment. My experience growing up on a true Iowa family farm has proved more powerful than politics, ideology or any food industry influence and has brought me to the profound realization of the importance of organic, responsible, REAL food.
What was your organic living “Aha!” moment?
Read about another organic living “Aha!” moment here.
About the author: Tom is communicator of natural living for Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia brands. In other words, he’s a very imaginative copywriter. A local boy, raised on a farm just down the road from the company’s headquarters in Norway, Tom enjoys drawing, plant hoarding, cooking and living the simple life in the beautiful state of Iowa.