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From Eggs to Lifestyle – A Lesson from the Hutterites

Which is better, cage-free eggs or caged? Well, it depends, on who you are! Are you the hen or are you the person eating the egg?

That’s the question Ephraim posed to me. He is the kind Hutterite man who transports my favorite eggs from his Hutterite Colony to my local grocery store.

I appreciate that my grocery store purchases produce from the nearby Hutterite Colony. Hutterites are known for eating “close to the earth” and their produce is top-notch. I got hooked on the Forest River Colony eggs for three reasons: gigantic yolks, fresh, delicious taste, and the price ($2.06/dozen.)

So when I happened to meet Ephraim, I couldn’t help but ask some questions.

My first was “Why are the yolks so big?” He said he didn’t know they were because he had never eaten any other eggs, so had nothing to compare them against. When I asked if their hens were cage-free, he shook his head no. He explained that it would be a challenge to allow 70,000 hens to rove free. He surprised me when he said “it’s a good thing… not for the hen, who may prefer to run around, but for you. Caging has really improved the sanitation of the eggs.” He gave me a visual of hens walking around in their own doo-doo and how that can end up on my eggs if they were cage-free. “Oh” was all I could say. Ephraim pointed out that even though their hens are in cages, they are not shot up with fatteners and hormones. They are rotated out after one year, since that is the age at which they don’t produce eggs very well. “Rotated out?” I asked. He said simply, “Chicken soup.”

I told Ephraim about the farm where my sister gets cage-free eggs. They come from a handful of hens personally named Chiffon, Curious and Marshmallow. When the eggs arrive at her house, they are labeled by the hen that bears them. (See image above. My artistic sister enjoys this so much she creates hen artwork.) Ephraim acknowledged that was very sweet, but they are not able to name 70,000 hens nor can they become sentimentally attached to them, especially when they “rotate them.” Understandable.

Our conversation moved from eggs to lifestyle. I wondered if the Hutterites still eat dinner together or if they ever sneak off and eat in front of the TV. He affirmed that they don’t watch TV and they still eat dinner together in the big dining hall, which is a tradition that is unlikely to ever change. While some people think of the Hutterites as “old-fashioned”, I think their lifestyle may be a peek into a desirable future for many Americans. Despite all the hype about clean eating, eating “close to the earth” is a way of life for the Hutterites. Despite not getting the Food Network, they have always cooked from scratch and baked their own bread. They don’t have to work at breaking free from TV because they have never used it. While they do have electricity and cell phones, they work very hard, have a strong faith, and always dine together as a family. I told Ephraim I have been trying to convince families to dine together around a table for 25 years. It’s a tough sell. He said he couldn’t imagine dining any other way.

And off he went, a hard-working, young man, with a lot of eggs to deliver.

If your family is looking to simplify (less TV, more meals around a table, cooking from scratch, or food close to the earth) check out my upcoming class, Fit Family, Healthy Family. As in all of my classes, I don’t dictate what you “should” do, in fact, all of my classes are “should-free”! You set the goals and I assist you in reaching them. To get started, email me at [email protected]

Photo credit: Original “Chiffon and Curious Conversing” Mixed Media Collage by Barbara Benda Nagle ©

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Thanks, Norman

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