Natures Yoke Pastured Eggs
I’ve really been enjoying The Egg Project. Honestly, I have to admit this, but I have probably been enjoying this as much as I enjoy The Bacon Project. *GASP* How could I?! Yes, I know, that’s terribly un-carnivore of me… Sort of. If being “un-carnivore” was a bad thing, then I guess I’m being bad. So, back to eggs. The process of improving my egg consumption, and working with you guys to help you improve your egg choices has been a blast! I’ve had a lot of comments from you on my The Egg Project posts, and it’s been really great to see the responses that you’ve been posting in! Apparently, people eat eggs or something…
I found Natures Yoke online, believe it or not, through Fresh Direct. I order some of my groceries there occasionally. Especially when I either have a free shipping coupon, or if I’m having a really busy week and just don’t have time to get to Trader Joe’s for my usual Tuesday night shopping trip. When I saw that Fresh Direct has both Natures Yoke and Handsome Brook Farms as available choices, I was ecstatic! Handsome Brook Farms comes in at 5.99/carton, and Natures Yoke comes in at 4.99/carton, which also makes it more affordable. I have already tried and reviewed Handsome Brook Farms, so it was definitely worth the $1.00 in savings to try and report to you all on another Pastured option. Natures Yoke it is!
Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites
At first, as I opened the carton, I was heartened to notice that the color variance in the egg shells was quite broad. I consider this a good thing – I really don’t want, or need, uniform egg coloration, and since I think that the colors of the eggs (and yolks) are driven by the food that the hen was eating, the more colors I see, the wider the variety of foods the hen was exposed to. At least, that’s my assumption. I don’t know if there’s any definitive proof of that statement, nor do I know if anyone other than me really cares or not. Regardless: I consider color variation to be a good thing.
I cracked the egg in and watched carefully as I spilled it’s contents out. The whites were acceptably viscous. I still remember the way CAFO eggs look when they’re cracked, and I use that as a basis for comparison. In CAFO eggs, it was not uncommon for me to see effectively no cohesion in the egg whites at all – it was just a yolk floating in egg-white-liquid. Unlike that, these pastured eggs don’t really pour out of the egg shell, they “plop” out, for lack of a better explanation. I was satisfied with the viscosity of the egg white, but it wasn’t extraordinary. If this chicken was given access to live protein sources, my guess is that they were few and far between. So, I’m thinking that the chickens (at least the ones that produced the eggs that I bought) are pastured in the same place, all year. Further, because they’re in the same place, my guess is that there are no “attractors” in the hen-yard to bring in fresh bugs. There’s no manure, there’s no leaves or grass dying. My guess is that because the chickens pick the few bugs that inadvertently end up in their yard quickly, there’s just not a lot of live protein available.
Obviously, that’s just a guess. But I can be fairly comfortable about making some guesses and generalizations here. Chickens are rarely pastured in a cow pasture these days. They’re rarely anywhere near the pigs. And because they’re sequestered, they no longer serve the purpose that is most important for a chicken on a farm: pest control. They can’t eat the bugs that are bothering the cows and pigs otherwise unmolested. It’s a double loss!
Like the egg whites, the yolks were also unimpressive. They were less orange, and more yellow than I would like in a premium pastured egg. Again, looking at my guess on their pasture conditions from above, my guess is that because they’re in the same pasture all year, they’ve mostly picked the live green vegetables bare from the ground. So it wouldn’t surprise me, if I were visiting this farm, to see a large permanent pen with fencing set up all the way around a large rectangular packed-earth area. Is this better than the commercial “free range” hens? Definitely. These hens are likely getting nearly unlimited sunlight, wind, clean air, and are likely less over-crowded than the commercial CAFO factories. They’re probably fairly healthy animals, with fairly healthy conditions.
But they’re not producing extraordinary products. And my guess is that is because the farmer of these eggs doesn’t know what a Chicken is for on a farm. What is that? A chicken’s purpose on a farm is to eat the bugs that the other farm animals attract. They’re the best pest-control available! Pigs and cows bring in bugs by the droves. And what better to keep those bugs under control than a voraciously hungry mother hen?!? Unfortunately, they can’t do that when they’re living in a permanent pen. And they don’t eat well without something to bring the bugs to them.
These were decently tasty eggs. Like the whites and yolks, these were acceptable, obviously in the “Top Quality” tier of eggs. But, to lean on a sports analogy, I think they’re the ones that made it in to the finals on a wild-card. These are good eggs. They are worth the money I paid for them, and I will likely buy them again. These are not great eggs.
What stood out:
Not a lot. The color of the eggs shells was probably the most exceptional thing about these eggs. I was really enjoying the varying shades from deep red, through pink, to brown. These eggs had a lot of color, and that suggests to me that the chicken producing these eggs was fed a lot of different kinds of plants.
The website contained quite an interesting description of the chickens and their feed. It states that their food consists mainly of grass and bugs, but that they’re given supplemental “all natural” grain-based feed. While it doesn’t specifically say that there’s no soy in the feed, it sounds to me like they’re actually giving the chickens the grain, not a feed pellet made from grain. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure, but this is certainly better than the processed garbage that CAFO hens are fed.
Despite the claims of the website, I was under-impressed with the egg white and the yolk. The website claims that they eat bugs and grass. My experience of the eggs suggests that, while it’s likely that there is some grass and bugs in their diet, they are getting the majority of their calories from the supplemental feed. I offered some thoughts on how that could be, and what the picture of their living conditions might look like (I’m thinking: large dirt-packed pen, permanently located, with hay strewn about). But those are just thoughts and guesses. Again, the yolk had some orange in it, so there’s very likely some live grass in their diet; but the yolk was more yellow than orange, so my guess is that there isn’t a lot of live grass. And the egg whites were viscous – the white did “plop” out of the shell rather than pour out. So my guess is that there’s ample protein, and probably some live protein. But it wasn’t the thick viscosity that I experienced in the Pete and Gerry’s eggs. And for nearly half the price, that’s fine!
The price was quite enticing! While the quality of the egg was somewhat less, in my opinion, than the quality of the other eggs I have reviewed here, the price was far more than “somewhat less”! At $4.99/carton, these are definitely worth considering for everyday use!
The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.
- √ Pastured, Cage-Free hens
- √ No hormones or antibiotics
- Certified Organic
- Certified Humane
- √ Sustainable farm raised
- Soy-Free Feed
These eggs get a check-mark for 3 of my criteria (probably the most important 3). What they’re lacking: I couldn’t find anything on their site, or the package, that shows that they are either certified organic or certified humane. Is that a problem? No! If they’re eating only grass and bugs, I couldn’t care less if they’ve wasted the money on a certification. All that does is raise the cost of my end-product, and I really would rather save money than eat something with a meaningless certification! Also, in checking out their site thoroughly, I can’t find anywhere which promises soy-free feed.
As I stated above in the critique of the eggs, the eggs were good quality and good tasting. These are not the “cream of the crop” eggs, but they’re definitely worth their price!