I'm a little behind at updating the blog, but trying to play some catch-up! Here is a wonderful article the Missoula Independent did about us a couple of years ago.
Sunny Side Up
MOA Summer Farm Tour
On June 27, 2009, the Montana Organic Association toured the Baty Farm in Dixon and our ranch in Ronan.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why don't you date stamp your egg cartons?
The date stamp on most food products is often the way people use to determine how safe and how fresh they are. Eggs are a little different. Egg farmers that are licensed and regulated by their state's department of agriculture may reside in a state that has different laws than another state. For example, in our state of Montana, the MT Dept. of Agriculture, while not prohibiting date stamping of the cartons themselves, recommend against it. This is because those date stamp requirements not only can vary from state to state, but eggs are not dated from the date of when they are laid by the hen, but are only dated from the date the egg was candled. The candling of the egg in the grading process is used to determine the size of the air cell in the egg, along with looking for blood spots, shell cracks, etc., in order to give the egg it's grade of AA or A, etc. In many large egg farms, eggs may be laid, collected, and stored in cold storage for months before they are candled and graded. Some of those eggs on sale at the grocery store may have been laid, say in March, that are now being sold in October. They are still perfectly safe to eat, but the consumer might be misled by the date stamp on the carton into thinking that the eggs they're buying are very freshly laid. Because of that, the State of Montana says that people might assume that eggs they are buying with plenty of time on the "sell by" date on the carton are fresher than other eggs with, perhaps, less time left on the "sell by" date that were actually laid more recently. Therefore, they have taken the position that date stamping of eggs is more confusing than it is helpful. One thing that is standard across all states is that the case the eggs are shipped in, those boxes that typically hold from 15 to 30 individually cartoned eggs, must display the date the eggs were candled. In our case, while large mega egg farms may cold store eggs for months after they were laid before candling, we candle and grade the eggs the same day they are laid without exception. We never cold store eggs before candling, so the date on those cases/boxes also corresponds to the date they were laid. Typically, the eggs that our customers get from us are all within 1 week to 10 days from the date they were laid, so they are very fresh. We often get more complaints from people about the eggs being too fresh to peel well when boiled than any other issue. Extremely fresh eggs just don't peel as well as an egg that's been kept in the refrigerator a few weeks. Another typical characteristic of a really fresh egg is how they "stand up" in the skillet. If you break an egg in the skillet and it flattens out and runs to the edge of the pan all across the bottom, you're cooking a pretty old egg. If, on the other hand, you break it into the skillet and it stands up nice in a small area, you're cooking a fresh egg.
What does "pastured hens" mean? Does it mean the eggs are pasteurized?
No, our eggs are not pasteurized. "Pastured hens" means that our hens are running out on pastures of grass every day. On our farm, we have what we call "rotational pastures" around each of our barns. During the grazing season, we open up a barn to one pasture for awhile, and then we close that one off when it is grazed down a bit, and open another door on another side of the barn to another pasture. Each barn has between 3 and 4 pastures of grass around it, each over an acre in size to allow a grazed pasture to recover and regrow, while allowing the chickens to always have a fresh grassy pasture, complete with those delicious insects (at least to a chicken) to "graze." This also keeps down destructive parasites as the chickens are constantly being moved to a fresh pasture, while the sunshine is allowed to purify the used site. Now, keep in mind this is Montana, so while the chickens are still running around outside all the time, there are times of the year that the pastures are snow covered and the grass is not green. It's another time of year that "purifies" those areas with extremely cold temperatures.
Why do the eggs in a Large or an Extra Large carton seem to vary in size from time to time?
Eggs are sized by weight, not by dimensions. When layers are young, their eggs can grade a large even when they appear smaller than they should be partly because their eggs are denser. When we get this question, we always recommend that a person empty out all the eggs from their carton, weigh the carton, and put all the eggs back in. Then re-weigh, subtracting the weight of the carton. Large eggs should weigh at least 24 oz. per dozen, while extra large eggs should weigh at least 27 oz. per dozen. Typically, we put larger eggs in our cartons than the minimums, and we never have sold light weight eggs. As the layers get beyond their initial beginning, we often have large eggs weighing beyond the minimum extra large requirements. When we are sorting eggs each day, we also will put any egg in an extra large carton that will fit and the carton will still safely close. Many of those eggs will weigh out at the Jumbo size, but we just put them in the extra large cartons. The egg inspector always says that it's alright to give people more than their money's worth, but his/her inspections are to verify that the customer is never short changed. Recipes that call for a certain size egg are almost always improved by using just a little more.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
We have had several inquiries about what our layers are eating from people who are looking for soy-free products and a few who are looking for corn-free products. During the summer, our layers are out on pastures, eating grass and bugs, but they always have available a mixed grain ration that is kept just inside the shelters at all times. We mill and mix that ration from Montana raised, certified organic, wheat, peas, and oats. Since the grains raised here are unusually high in protein compared to other parts of the country, we only need to add a small amount of fish meal (high in omega-3) to balance the ration, along with a mixture of natural vitamins and minerals approved for organic use. The calcium we use is mined right here in Montana. During the winter, since pastures are often snow covered and not green at all, we take green and leafy certified organic alfalfa hay raised from our own fields, and spread it in the yards for the layers to come out and scratch and eat. We purposefully do NOT use soy products of any kind, and since organic corn is not plentiful in this area of Montana, we also use no corn.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
The chickens have survived the cold snaps this winter without too much trouble. We did have water pipes freeze for a short time, but John was able to put in some waterers with heaters until it warmed up. Though snow is not something they enjoy, they do go outside on nicer days to enjoy the fresh alfalfa hay that John puts out for them.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
We had a beautiful day for the Montana Organic Association tour. John did a wonderful job of presenting our operation and how we got to where we are today. Everyone was able to see the feed mill, new chicks, all the features in our new building and a demonstration of candling and processing the eggs. The Western Montana Growers COOP donated eggs, so everyone went home with a fresh dozen. We met several new folks and appreciate everyone who came out for the event!