A nice, fresh egg should not splat all over your plate in a runny mess. A good egg will sit with dignity, according to Phil, perishables buyer at Bloomingfoods East. “Most eggs that you buy at a grocery store, they’ve been through one warehouse and another, and they might be a month old. Ours are a week old,” Phil said.
Phil said a high-quality egg should have three visible layers. That’s two layers of albumen and a perky golden yolk. Lisa Schelling, a Bloomingfoods East front end manager, enjoys Copper Creek eggs. “They have the nice bright yolks that I like to see. That means the eggs are fresh and the chickens are well-fed,” she said. Schelling also appreciates the fact that Copper Creek eggs are local. The 7.5 acre farm is located in Kokomo, Indiana. “I know I could check on the chicken conditions if I wanted to,” she said.
Though Copper Creek eggs aren’t certified as organic, farmers Karen and Wes Gingerich have been focused on healthy living since they started raising hens 15 years ago. “We started basically for our own family, because we wanted hormone and antibiotic-free food. People would ask me how they could have access to it, that’s how we got started,” Karen said. “I wanted birds that were pastured, that were out and about, running and enjoying the sunshine,” she continued. Over the years, the Copper Creek farm has expanded to include goats, pigs, cows, and fryers (meat chickens).
In summer, the flock of 1,000 laying hens devours pasture insects and grass. “They’re very good bug patrollers, there’s no flies on the farm,” said Karen, adding, “The only time I get upset with them is when they get in my flower beds.” In winter the chickens get oats and corn, some of which is grown on the land.
Bloomingfoods sells a variety of local eggs, one of the closest being Big Girl Farms, known for its distinct green-shelled eggs. “My husband teases me and calls me big girl,” says farmer Tina Paynter, whose farm is located on the north side of Bloomington. Paynter’s little granddaughter often insists that she’s a big girl, too.
Amish, Mennonite and other old-order communities supply Bloomingfoods with many of its eggs. “They’re very conservative as far as their farming techniques. They don’t believe in a lot of pesticides or herbicides,” said Alan Simmerman, prepared foods manager at the Near West Side.
Chickens are sensitive to changes in the weather, and long nights typically slow egg production. According to Simmerman, hens raised in large indoor warehouse facilities are often subjected to extended hours of artificial daylight, inducing extended periods of egg-laying.But chickens raised outdoors lay haltingly in the dark winter months: January is especially notorious for egg shortages. “We’re on the uphill in March, as far as production,” Simmerman said.
Laura Gleason is a freelance writer who cashiers at the Near West Side. If you find yourself in her checkout line, she may well chat you up about what you're making for dinner. Surprise her!