Monday, June 15, 2015

The Price of Eggs

I recently read a review slamming another CSA's egg prices being just gouging the public and winced. The poor dear had no idea at all about the nefariousness of the chicken industry or the horrifying conditions her $3.00 a dozen egg laying chickens were living in.   As many of you know, we ONLY serve our CSA membership with eggs. There can only be one reason for that, and it's because it's not profitable for us. At $8.00 a dozen, I knew we were in the neighborhood of breaking even and I viewed my little chicken hobby (let's call it what it is) as a cool add-on service to my subscribers and a source of clean food for my family. I love the sound of my roosters in the morning, and count their morning calls as one of the assets of living rurally. Which makes me shake my head when I hear that HOA's  and city counsels consider the rooster's song or tiny flock hygiene issues as the main reason to disallow backyard chickens. Expand on that logic...just saying....and I think dogs should have been banned first. A well managed backyard flock of 2 or 3 chickens is a great source of bug management and a pleasure to watch and enjoy. A few decision-making folks ruin it for everyone by drafting and implementing rules that are not consistent across all considerations involved in the ownership and care of various pet species. Dogs but no chickens? Squacking stupid parrot that keeps saying the same thing...A ok, but my rooster gets a Chicken Ticket? Misinformed, I say! Draconian nonsense.

Anyway, sigh, our break even cost to provide eggs has inched up to a bit over $9.00 a dozen, so starting in July our egg price will reflect an increase to $9.00 a dozen. It didn't happen overnight, but it's time for me to raise my price. I know only a few people read my blog, so  we'll communicate directly with those that are affected by this price increase.

And word of caution: I know there are still $3.00 a dozen eggs out there, both in the grocery store and on Craigslist. I've done the math, the only way a small farmer can approach $3.00 is to work for free, or utilize free intern-type labor, feed the chickens crap, maximize feed ratio by slaughtering at 14-18 months, accept no rescues, slaughter all sick or injured hens at once, keep the miserable flock confined to cages and in an indoor facility where conditions can be optimized for egg production, and basically use up the hens' life by the time they are a year and a half old. But the eggs would be cheap.

To achieve $9 a dozen, we, too, will have to replenish our flock every 12 months. By reaching out to backyarders and selling the mature egg-laying flock while they are still laying production quantities of eggs, hens will find humane homes and we can offer $9 a dozen instead of $18 a dozen eggs to our CSA membership. By three years old, most hens will not be laying many eggs, by 18 months they will begin to taper off and the feed to egg ratio can not support even a $9 a dozen carton of eggs. Truth be told, like I said, the egg business is an ugly one and Americans have gotten accustomed to an almost free egg, but we weren't asking enough questions about how that was achieved. On a similar vein...I was delighted to hear recently that MacDonalds is suffering the consequences of folks beginning to ask questions and reeling from the unappetizing answers. There are always trade-offs. Sometimes those deals are kept hidden, but someone or something has to suffer when prices sink below the price of humane production.

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