Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen
Reviewed by Anne-Marie Miller
My husband and I used to have a date night ritual of, wait for it…going to the grocery store together. It sounds really lame when I see it written out like that. Way before we had chickens and rabbits and veggies galore, what we had was toddlers and a lot of them. So whenever we could we would peruse the aisles at our local market sloooowly savoring the time alone.
There was, however, one area of tension involved in this kind of date. While I was reading labels and selecting organic products with ingredients that I could actually pronounce, he was after regular pesticide-sprayed, MSG-laden, fried (if possible), fill-your-tummy comfort food. It would be kind of a contest of who could reach the product first. I would pop organic veggies in the cart, and he would follow it with fried chicken nuggets. I would be occupied in scanning the label, while he would strategically maneuver around me to snag the mac ‘n cheese product and place it in the cart. You get the idea—a dating/shopping war of sorts.
There was one aisle where our competition would become most intense—it was when I reached for the cage free eggs. That is, if I got there first. The tension would mount, but he knew me well. He knew that, if challenged on this particular issue, I could, and very likely would, throw down the nearest soap box, climb on top of it and tell the world of the advantages/humane purpose in defending the cruelly treated chicken everywhere. Fast forward years later, and he has come a long way, mainly because we are eating straight from the garden. He loves kale! We have our own chickens who lay eggs for us and no longer have a tug of war in the egg aisle. Even after all these years it chaps me a bit to know that he was right. I don’t admit to this very often, especially not in print. Here it is in black and white; You were right honey! Cage free eggs are not what you might imagine they are. When I picture cage free eggs I picture this:
When in actuality, according to the law, “cage free” eggs means this (and often doesn’t even include access to the outdoors as shown in the image):
While it is a very tiny step forward, it is still a crowded, antibiotic-fed, huge barn full of overcrowded chickens.
You might think “free range” is the way to go, but in accordance to the law the birds under these conditions are provided with access to outdoor space. Oftentimes the outdoor space is so small that the chickens would have to work out a complicated schedule to provide everyone fun in the sun. I can’t help but think of the movie Chicken Run. I can just see one of those chickens busily knitting, calling out, “Your turn in the yard, Ethel. You have 5 minutes so I would move your bum if I were you!”
What about the label “natural?” Well, call me stupid, but many things are “natural.” I mean, poop is natural, but I certainly don’t want to eat it. The term sounds good on a food package though, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled.
What about the term “organic?” Well again this is a small step forward meaning that the chicken that laid the egg you are eating was fed an organic feed. However, this has nothing to do with the actual living conditions of the chicken.
My favorite term of all is “vegetarian fed.” OK, chickens are omnivores! They eat insects as a large and essential part their diet. This just doesn’t make sense to me. Again, sounds good on the package though.
Lucie B. Amundsen is a masterful story teller in that, in her book Locally Laid, she factually lays out important issues such as what exactly the term “cage free” eggs really means, the importance of locally sourced food and why mid-sized farms are so important to rebuilding America’s local food system. At the same time, she weaves these tidbits of info into a page-turning story. I kid you not, I was up late one night far after I should have turned in, because I just couldn’t put it down. Locally Laid is a story about the ups and downs of starting a pasture raised farm of egg-laying divas. It turns out also to be a story of risking comfort and security to go after a dream. The story carries with it the foundation of hope, that there can be a better way than the harsh reality of the factory farm method and the many obstacles one has to surmount to achieve that better way. At one point she had me snickering loudly, next chapter she had me in tears and in the end I was ready to burst out in cheer, rooting for the success of this little clucking dream, raised in a pasture, protected, nurtured and celebrated by this sweet family against big obstacles.
As my friend Moriah would say, this author has a laugh out loud, sassy sense of humor, which I thoroughly enjoyed and I think you will too. When you find a book that you want to share with your friends and you happen to be the author of a blog you naturally have a book giveaway (enter the giveaway HERE)! I really didn’t think I could give away this book without giving away their logo emblazoned t-shirt, which proudly advertises their sweet n’ sassy “Locally Laid” emblem. So I got one for the lucky winner! I love the color orange. I have to point out here that if you are going to wear a t-shirt that says “Locally Laid“ you are already standing out. Why not take it all the way with orange? Good luck! If you would like to visit their farm, virtually that is, or find out more about their pasture raised egg laying divas check them out here.
Now you begin to see the incentive for some of us to raise our own chickens. We get control over housing, feed, time outside, organic feed with the addition of insects (remember, they’re omnivores), and humane treatment. Then there is the extra bonus of ENTERTAINMENT and VERY nutritious eggs. There is also that moment first thing in the morning when your eyes crack open ever so slightly to see a young child by your bed, proudly holding up a light green egg, saying; “Look mama, look at the treasure Mrs. Waffles left for me!” Just can’t beat it! And that thing our egg laying divas leave in their wake? Don’t even get me started on the amount of food chicken poop can help produce. I am talking vine ripe, slap your mama goodness!
So to sum it up: RAISE YOUR OWN CHICKENS! But if you cannot then what you are looking for is eggs from pasture raised chickens. However, this is not regulated by the FDA so it is best if you know your farmer. I have to admit I am a cynic; I always think someone is trying to pull one over on me. Locally sourced and raised eggs like the ones at Urban Acres Farmstead (in my area) are your best bet. If you cannot afford pasture raised eggs (which will cost you about $5.00 per dozen), then go ahead and buy the cheapest eggs you can find. The minuscule step forward, if that, is not worth tension in your marriage or your pocket book!
Anne-Marie or Dash (for the hyphen in her name) is an urban farmer in Dallas, Texas. She raises chickens and rabbits on less than ¼ of an acre. Plus, she has turned her front yard into a large stand-out-in-the neighborhood vegetable garden. In addition to the farming she does on her homestead, she helped create a community garden literally from grassy field to thriving garden. What stands out about her little urban homestead is her determined out of the box approach to overcoming obstacles. You can follow her adventures on her little urban homestead by visiting her blog, BloomWhereYourPlanted.com.