The Egg Project – Vital Farms Pastured Eggs


Vital Farms Pastured Eggs

I’ve heard a lot about these. If you spend any time at all looking at the egg section of Whole Foods Market, some helpful person will walk up and suggest the Vital Farms eggs. If you ask “Why” you’ll get some sort of answer along the lines of “Well, they’re the best!” And yes, the response will be a happy, perky response, from someone who clearly just took a shot of espresso. I’ve been looking to buy these, in fact, since I started The Egg Project for that very reason. I mean, if they’re that good, then I need to share with you all exactly how good they are!

Unfortunately for me and you, it seems like the Whole Foods Market helpful people are quite good at convincing their customers that Vital Farms eggs are, indeed, the best. Because every time I try to buy them, the shelves have been bereft of these eggs… They must be good if they’re always sold out! At least, that’s a reasonable expectation. There are some other considerations at play here, of course. It could be that Vital Farms is unwilling to permit eggs older than a few days, or something. So since Whole Foods likely only restocks their shelves once per week, they’ll manage their shelves so that the Vital Farms eggs all sell out within the Vital Farms policy. I can think of another few reasons as well, but the most fun one, of course, is that they’re just that good!

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites


The Vital Farms yolk was a little more yellow than I would like to see. I am constantly looking for the bright orange that we’ve seen out of some of our eggs. Clearly nutrition plays a major role in the coloration of the yolk. Vital Farms talks a good game on their website, although they do not actually tell us what they feed their chickens. Chickens, like all birds, are healthiest when they have an abundant source of bugs available to them. The pictures, and the mental image, that Vital Farms paints on their site makes their pastures sound something like “pristine”.
This is all great, and everything, but I’m wondering how the pastures are attracting bugs for the chickens to eat… But we’ll get back to this a bit when we talk about the egg whites. I’m just wondering if, possibly, the bug content of a chicken’s diet will also affect the color of the yolk. It makes sense – if your body expects live protein, and isn’t getting live protein (or not much), it will be less effective and efficient at converting it’s other nutrients in the way that it would otherwise.


The Whites:
The egg whites on this egg were a little bit thinner than I was expecting. I’ve read that the thickness of the egg white is partially determined by the freshness of the egg, so it’s possible that these eggs were less than optimally fresh; but if that’s the case, the freshness was lost in transit, and on the Whole Foods Market shelves – I cooked this egg the day after I bought the carton. So freshness could be a factor. A factor that I am a little bit more interested in, though, is whether or not the Vital Farms chickens are getting enough bugs in their diets… Here’s what I have to say to that:
In the wild, things are constantly creating bio-waste, which attracts bugs, and chickens (and most birds) are constantly on the hunt for the bug-magnets out there for their food. The idyllic mental image that Vital Farms paints, of long, comfortable rolling fields of unmolested wild grass sounds pretty, and sounds like a great place to go throw a stick for a dog. I would love to look at those out the back window of my house! But there needs to be something to attract bugs for the chickens to eat. No bugs, less-than-optimal bird diet. And that will leave us with thin egg whites.
But that’s just my two cents. Let’s see what they taste like. Maybe their not-bright yolk will be the most delicious yolk I’ve ever had! Maybe the whites are filled with delicious protein that will trigger my salivary glands to overproduce, telling me that I want more, more, more!


The flavor:

So far I’ve given middling marks, at best, for the color of the yolk and the thickness of the whites. Let’s find out whether or not the flavor holds up… Annnnndd: It does!
The egg yolk was bursting with flavor. I’m really not sure whether or not I could taste individual dietary input for the hens in the yolk; or if that’s even possible. But it tasted to me like the hen was eating flowers. Probably clover flowers. It was verging on sweet, and filled with the sort of flavor that you get from a clover flower (yes, I have eaten clover flowers). It was wonderful! I will most definitely enjoy each and every one of the remaining eggs in the package.
Continuing to eat the egg: the whites had some flavor as well. Egg whites don’t really have a whole lot of flavor, at least to me, so I don’t normally look for anything in particular when I eat them. But this egg white did have a bit of flavor, and I enjoyed it. Also, while the egg white didn’t seem particularly thick when I cracked the egg, it definitely thickened admirably when it was cooked. I was surprised, to say the least.


What stood out:

This was one of the tastiest egg yolks I’ve eaten.
I’m enamored with the “minimum 108 square feed per hen” guarantee.
This is something that really means a lot to me – these are hens that are given all the space that they need to be able to behave like an animal. In conjunction with the flavor of the egg, this is definitely something I strongly appreciate.
These eggs seem to be well-loved by other customers. It could be that the other customers haven’t tried the other eggs that I’ve reviewed here on The Egg Project, but these seem to me to be the best selling egg on the Whole Foods Market shelves, including their more conventional products. Considering the price, that’s a very powerful statement!

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

These eggs get a shining check-mark for each of the first 5 of my criteria. 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 delicious, which indicates that they eat plenty of green leafy vegetables – but I can’t be sure what else they are fed, if anything.

The Egg Project – Natures Yoke Pastured Eggs


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!


Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. 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!

The Egg Project – Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Harans Eggs


Pete and Gerry’s Harans Heirloom Eggs

I was so impressed with the egg quality and flavor, as well as the color of the yolk in my previous post on Pete and Gerry’s Ameruacana Eggs (no, that’s not a typo), that I picked up the other version of Heirloom Eggs that Pete and Gerry’s sells. These are also listed on the Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs website. Though somewhat less spectacular, these eggs turned out to be every bit as good in a few varied ways. It is possible that some of what I noticed as differences can be attributed to the maturity of the seasonal diet that the hens were eating. I’ll discuss this more as I make these observations. Ultimately, though, I found these eggs to be equally excellent to the Ameruacana variety, though, as I mentioned above, their color makes them less exciting. If that’s the only meaningful difference, these should be enjoyed just as often as the Ameruacana eggs.

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites


The color of the yolk was exactly the type of bright orange color that I am looking for, as you can see in the picture. The thing that surprised me about this egg was the size of the yolk compared to the volume of the egg. I know that the size of the yolk is somewhat determined by how soon the egg is collected and refrigerated, so that could be a single egg anomaly. But if you take a look at my next picture, you’ll see that both eggs had quite large yolks. I am curious if there is a nutritional consideration in the size of the yolk or if, possibly, this entire batch was simply collected later in the day than might otherwise be normal.
The egg whites on this egg were extraordinary. As you can see from the picture, they were extremely viscous, and held together very very well. The way I cook the eggs would cause a less viscous egg white to come apart, or at least spread more, but these retain almost the same shape cooked as they did before being cooked. I am looking forward to trying some scrambled eggs with this egg, since I want to see how well it holds together while I’m stirring it.


While the color was similar between the Ameruacana and the Harans egg, the flavor was vastly different. In fact, the flavor of the Harans egg was unlike any other egg I’ve ever tasted. The flavor was nuanced, and approached something I might call “sweet”. I don’t think I’ve ever had occasion to describe an egg like this, and I’m not sure what it is that made these taste that way. I cooked them the same way as my other The Egg Project eggs, so there shouldn’t be a drastic difference… Regardless, the flavor was exquisite, and I am really looking forward to more!


What stood out:

These were quite good eggs, and I really enjoyed eating them! In addition to being excellent on their own merits, these eggs had the following surprising qualities that made them even more interesting:
They had a slight sweet flavor to them. I’m not sure what can cause this. Eating grass while it’s still very young and growing could give them a bit of extra sugar in their diet; perhaps that might be passed on to the egg. I suppose it is also possible that some of the other green vegetation that these chickens were pecking through to find bugs and grubs were also sweet, like clovers. This is an interesting flavor, and something I will be looking in to further.
The egg-white was extraordinarily viscous. This is a true statement even after considering other “Pastured” organic eggs, including the other heirloom variety offered by Pete and Gerry’s. Being perfectly honest, I didn’t expect anything like this when I cracked these eggs open. It was as surprising to me as the pictures must be for you!

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

These eggs get a shining check-mark for each of the first 5 of my criteria. 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 delicious, and the yolks were a bright orange (also surprisingly sweet), which indicates that they eat plenty of grass (and maybe some clover?). Further, the whites were thick and viscous, so the chickens clearly had some live protein in their diet.

The Egg Project – Handsome Brook Farm Organic Pasture Raised


Handsome Brook Farm Organic Pasture Raised

In my recent trip to Whole Foods looking for some top-quality pastured soy-free eggs, I stumbled across Handsome Brook Farm Eggs. Handsome Brook Farm only does one kind of eggs, as far as I can tell, and they try to keep them at the highest quality possible. I was quite impressed with their literature, and what they do for their hens while they’re producing. These look like they’ll be about as good as you can get, without growing them yourself! Here is a summary of what I can see, and why I like what I see:


  1. They only raise these eggs. I like this a lot because I find that quality is often the result of intense focus. The more focused a producer can be, the higher capacity for quality they are liable to have. And, of course, realized quality is bound by capacity, right? In other words, you have to focus on your product to produce something of value!
  2. They are 100% pastured, and their feed is grain-supplemented with organic grains. I am not excited that they’re being given grain supplements for their feed, but I recognize that without any bug-attractions, there is going to be a shortage of bugs pretty quickly when you unleash chickens on a field. Good bug attractions would be: cattle, horses, pigs, etc. to create something that the bugs would want to come to the farm and eat. That, of course, brings tons of bugs around to feed the chickens! Anyway, back from my digression, I recognize that without a mulch-disciplinary farm, there won’t be any cattle to attract bugs, and so the chickens simply won’t have enough bugs to feed on. They’ll need their feed supplemented somehow. And since it’s 100% grain, I know that there’s no soy, which is a huge win! In my egg-book, soy is worse than grains.
  3. They’ve taken the time to earn all of the various certifications that there are for top-quality eggs. Now, if you’re buying from your local farmer, this may be a detractor, since those certifications are expensive, and you can personally inspect the farmer’s operations. But if you’re buying commercial (which is what the Egg Project focuses on), then you’ll need to know that someone is inspecting the farm; even if it’s not actually you. Also, the fact that they have more than one certification means that they’re proud of their work (at least, that’s what I hope it means…) and proud farmers produce better products.

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites?


The viscosity of the whites was noticeable. I was quite impressed with how thick and viscous the egg whites were. This indicates that the hens were given an ample source of protein for the egg-production process, and it means that the protein in the whites will be abundant for anyone eating it. This is good.
The egg yolk was not as impressive as the egg whites. It was most certainly better than the “Cage Free Organic” eggs that I occasionally buy from Trader Joe’s, which has a dull yellow egg, the same as most basic commercial egg operations. This egg had a bright yellow color, verging on orange. This indicates that the chickens are eating some grass. Based on the color of the yolk and the viscosity of the egg whites.
My guess is that the “supplementary feed” that the chickens are getting actually turns out to be their primary source of calories, but the feed is scattered in grass, and the hens are hunting it and pecking it up as though it’s bugs. This is why there’s some color in the yolks, because there is some grass in their diets. Unfortunately, as we well know from our own human-food experiments, grains are addictive, so unless the farmer is highly perceptive and is only giving the hens just enough supplemental feed to fill out their dietary needs after they’ve been hunting bugs and grass all day, they’ll just choose all the grains being given to them instead of hunting for bugs. Of course, this is just my guess.


Strangely, the yolk showed more of the bright orange coloring after being cooked than before. This is a new concept for me, and something I’ll have to begin to research to understand better. I really don’t have enough experience with this in order to be able to render an updated guess on their nutrition based on my thoughts above.
My piqued interest aside: the flavor of the yolk was as exceptional as the cooked coloring would suggest. I was pleased with a well rounded flavor, not the dry, boring flavor that I am more used to from other commercial options. This is a tasty egg, and I enjoyed eating it!


Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

This is a striking 6-checks! I don’t really expect to see this, ever. It’s possible that I should add a seventh category, though I honestly don’t expect anyone ever to be able to complete it. If I did, it would either be: “No supplemental feed” or “Grain-free feed”. If I used “Grain-Free Feed” then there is a chance that some farmers out there would qualify, though again that would be a surprise. It’s perfectly possible to supplement chicken feed with alfalfa (particularly because many farmers use alfalfa as a rotation crop for their fields), as well as pea-shoots, and any other rotational nitrogen-producing crop. But since that’s expensive, and few farmers are even aware of the idea of “premium” feed for chickens, I don’t expect to be seeing that any time soon. When I encounter it, I’ll add that category at that time.

The Egg Project – Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Ameraucana Eggs


UPC’s The Egg Project

My wife recently asked me to reconsider an analysis of the eggs that are available commercially. I’ve spent more than a few lines on my blog griping about the food that chickens are fed, and how I’m generally dissatisfied with both the chicken and egg quality available, mostly again based on the food that their given. When we went Paleo 3+ years ago, I did an exhaustive analysis of the commercially available eggs, and concluded that I could either not eat the eggs, or eat eggs from soy-fed chickens. At that time, I didn’t have any soy-free egg source available to me. Thankfully, the market is constantly changing, and there are now some reliable sources of pastured eggs which give us some really high quality protein and fats! So I decided to accept my wife’s request, and share with you all the results of my re-analysis of the commercially available eggs in the market place. Here are my basics:

1. Chickens are omnivores, like all birds. “The early bird get’s the worm” should be an important part of our understanding of what chickens should be eating. A chicken which has no live animal protein source in it’s diet is not a healthy bird. I am putting that in bold to be perfectly clear about my stance on this. When you see “All vegetarian feed” on chicken and egg labels, that is not a good thing! Chickens need to feed on bugs, just like every other bird!

2. Just like all other animals, soy and whole grains are not quality feed for chickens. They do better with it than cows, but it’s still not quality feed. So in order to satisfy me that the eggs I am getting are truly top-quality, I need to see that the chickens are being fed no soy, and no grains. There are plenty of other commercially available (not as cheap, obviously) food sources to supplement the bugs, beetles, worms, and grubs that they can forage in a farm-yard. Good examples: sprouts, non-grain seeds, berries and nuts, possibly even an apple from time to time.

3. Cage free is an absolute requirement for me. While there may be no option with regards to food, and I’ll simply have to make some “allowances” and just report to you all my findings, I will not make any allowances on Cage Free. There are options available, and there’s no need for cages at all. Chickens will roost naturally, and don’t need to be kept on their roost forcibly.

Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs; Ameruacana Eggs


I found Pete and Gerry’s eggs while looking around at the options in Whole Foods Market. Pete and Gerry’s has several different options on the shelves, and I ended up purchasing two of them. Today’s post looks at one of their options that they call Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs. These are very interesting eggs! As you can see from the picture above, the coloring of the eggs is slightly green, which was fascinating considering the current egg market, which is dominated by either completely white or completely brown eggs. These greenish eggs really caught my attention, and I am very glad that they did. Variability like that in eggs indicates to me that the farmers raising those eggs have some appreciation for their animals and the product of their farm. This is a good thing!

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites


This is a huge indicator that the chickens were given regular access to pasture. The carotene in the grass that they eat while searching for bugs and seeds comes out in the bright orange color that you can see in this egg. It’s a huge sign that the animal is a healthy animal, and that it has ample room to roam as needed to get both proper exercise and proper nutrition (bugs and grass).
It’s hard to actually “see” the viscosity of the egg whites. I will do the best I can to show that when I show my eggs; but I am not sure how yet… In the mean time, I suppose I’ll just have to say that I was satisfied with the viscosity of the eggs. It wasn’t strikingly thick, but it also wasn’t thin and runny, like most commercial eggs are. So I found this to be a satisfying level of thickness and viscosity.


As you can see from the cooked picture, that coloring perpetuates through the cooking of the egg, and the end result is both a delicious egg, and a really stunningly good looking one! In fact, this is one of the best tasting eggs that I’ve had since I was a child, and lived in rural Vermont where there were only farm-raised eggs available.


Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

These eggs get a shining check-mark for each of the first 5 of my criteria. 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 delicious, and the yolks were a bright orange, which indicates that they eat plenty of grass. Further, the whites were thick and viscous, so the chickens clearly had some live protein in their diet.

Have We Lost Our “Grit”?


I actually had a different post in mind for today when I finished it up last night. But I was consumed by the question posed in this post’s title: “Have we lost our grit?” I will have to get around to telling you all about my ski weekend tomorrow. Today I will explore the question of the day with you. Here’s what I was doing, to give you a bit of context: I was mostly settled in to my morning routine today, cutting up vegetables, heating up mushrooms, washing my Leeks, as an the question popped in to my mind. “Have we lost our grit?”

I did go on to finish making breakfast, and the leeks were delicious. But this also completely derailed any other productive thoughts from my mind, including finishing my post about my ski weekend, until I had written down my thoughts on the grit and dirt I was washing out of my Leeks this morning.

Have we lost our grit?

This question can be interpreted in several different ways – and I intend it to be interpreted in all of those ways! Here’s where I was coming from: Is it possible that the experience of eating a meal has been diminished by the lack of preparation we have to make in order to eat? Here is how my parents eat a meal in the summer time: They head out to the garden and harvest some lettuce, some onions, perhaps a heel of garlic, some cucumbers, a zucchini, a pepper, perhaps a hot pepper. They grab the hose on the way in and give the basketful of vegetation they just harvested a thorough soaking, removing most of the bigger pieces of dirt from their meal. They come inside, chop, heat, and otherwise prepare the meal, including some local farm-raised meat (most likely a beef or pork cut), and sit down after about 30 minutes of harvesting and 15 minutes of chopping, for a nice home-made meal. And when they call their food “home-made” they have an earned right to the term.

I put a similar amount of preparation in to my food, but it’s very different in content. I go to the store (I’m urban, after all) and agonize over the variety of salad greens available: “Is there wild arugula here today?” I ask myself, looking at the 1000’s of meals worth of various salad greens. If no wild arugula, I’ll look for organic spring mix, or some similar sort of salad green – the more color, the better. It probably takes me as long to locate the salad greens I choose as it did my parents to harvest theirs – so I get some meal appreciation, since I did work for it. But is it possible that the content of my work is also important? And how does this bear on people who simply grab the first bag on the lettuce shelf? Can they enjoy their meal as much as I do? Can I enjoy my meal as much as my parents do?

I don’t know the answer to those questions – but I know that they’re important questions. I know that there is a “Slow Food” movement out there gaining steam to help people to remember that “Saying Grace” before our meal used to have a real meaning. It’s trying to re-teach us that food isn’t a chore, and that because it is perhaps the most important single thing we do in our lives, it should be savored, appreciated, and considered at great length. We should have food that is, as Lavi Strauss put it “Good to think.” And it should contribute to, not detract from, our Grit.

Is the extra work enough?

I do extra work, and shop at more than one (often more than 2) grocery stores in an attempt to find food which still has the grit on it, just so that I have to wash it off. I go far out of my way to buy Leeks, the progenitor of today’s question, which are not trimmed, and have not been washed. I buy arugula which is wild harvested, as are the blueberries and raspberries I have in my freezer. I buy grass-fed beef, pastured chickens (not even “Free Range”), and pastured pork. At the end of the week, I likely spend as much time in grocery shopping, after considering all the labels I read, all the research on this brand and that which I do, as my parents spend tending their garden and harvesting their produce. And I enjoy my food, truly, more than most people I know. I work hard to get the best ingredients I can find. I carefully select which ingredients are added to each dish, making sure that their flavors and textures are well matched to the final experience I am in pursuit of. And it works! Not only do I enjoy my food, but so does everyone else who eats it! But that doesn’t answer the question: is it enough? Is my parents’ experience of food still better than my own? And is their experience meaningfully better?

What does this have to do with our “Grit”?

I notice that more and more people are not reading the labels on their packaged foods. Including the foods that my parents eat in the winter. This is a strange observation for me, since I spend most of my conscious time deep in my own world of highly perceptive food considerations… But the few times I actually pick my head up and look around, I hear people talking about going on a “Low Fat Diet”. I think to myself “Do people still believe that crap?” And then I see another article, published in the NY Times or some other reputable periodical, stating “conclusively” in the title that red meat will kill you. When I read the article, though, I find buried somewhere in the text that there is no actually established causative link, and that the correlations are vanishingly small when adjusted for more important risk factors. But that doesn’t make a good news story, does it?

And the news is only the beginning. How many medications are there for asthma? I have close friends with 2 and 3 year old kids who have asthma! This is not natural! So, scientists and doctors are blaming it on the pollutants in the air. Here is my problem with that: if pollution is the cause, then why aren’t the White Tailed Deer populations being decimated by their inability to run? Why aren’t the pigeons falling out of the air? I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Let’s be honest with ourselves here: if the cause is ambient, then all natural beings are subject to it. This is a very simple logical deduction. And since White Tailed Deer are heavily overpopulated, and Pigeon populations don’t seem to be threatened in the least, we know that it’s not an ambient issue. Air quality is not the cause of asthma – it may be a trigger, but it is not the cause. And what is every bit as fundamental to our health as our air quality and water quality? FOOD!

Here’s what you need to do: eat real food. Nothing else will do. If you’re buying something in a package, it should have only the ingredients you think you’re getting, and nothing else. If there’s other stuff in it, don’t buy it. Eat unprocessed salad greens, wash the dirt off yourself, eat colored vegetables, and eat grass-fed beef. It’s just not that difficult. And if you do, you can look forward to the same kind of health that the White Tailed Deer seem to have, despite that they drink the water we pollute, and breathe the same air that we pollute, and sleep in the acid rain that we caused. What’s the difference between them and us? They eat real food! They eat the food they are meant to eat! And we eat stuff we don’t even have a language for. Why don’t we have a language for it? Because it’s not real food!!!

Yes, it seems we have lost our Grit…

I think that the people who read those articles, and mindlessly believe the title have proven the title of this post! They have lost their Grit. And for a lack of any other reasonable hypothesis, I am blaming it on the lack of dirt in their food. I have concluded (for argument’s sake) that when people stopped gardening, and started buying pre-washed romaine hearts, they lost their Grit. Literally, and figuratively.

And so, it’s possible that my parents enjoy their summer meals slightly better than I enjoy mine. They made the meal themselves, truly. But I think that the hard work that I put in to my meal is part of what makes it so delicious. Today I am asking you to go buy some Grit!

If you have comments, please send them in!! I know that this topic should generate quite a bit of thought – share your thoughts with us on the comments board! And thank you for reading and (hopefully) enjoying my rant today – it was on my mind, and now it’s out there for all to read.