PRODUCER INTERVIEW – Gabor’s Eggs

The following is an interview with one of the producer/vendors at the All Things Local Cooperative Market.

Gabor Lukacs of Gabor’s Eggs

Egg Shaped Gold – by Caroline Seymour

It’s so easy to separate the grocery store from the farm.  Eggs come from chickens, obviously, but on a weekly trip to Stop and Shop it’s hard to remember that eggs don’t just come from cardboard cartons.  What’s more, we’re even made to believe that all eggs are created equal.  You might feel good about buying cage-free eggs, but if there’s really no difference between the eggs then it’s not worth worrying about, right?

eggsWrong!  The color of an egg’s shell doesn’t really matter, but what’s inside can vary widely based on the life of the chicken it came from, and the difference is big enough to see.  Try putting one supermarket egg in a bowl next to Gabor’s Eggs from All Things Local, and the difference is clear. Gabor’s eggs have a richer, more brightly colored yolk.  The yolks stand taller, they’re stronger, and they even taste better.  And as you might expect, the difference doesn’t come from chemicals and hormones, but from something even more unusual: treating chickens like chickens.

It turns out, letting chickens do what chickens like to do causes them to produce better eggs.  This means letting them out of the little cages (commonly called battery cages) that commercially raised chickens live in and letting them outside.  Gabor Lukacs, an Amherst resident who raises chickens of his own, knows exactly what this means.  His chickens live in a wide area around his garden, picking at bugs and grass and choosing whether they want to stand in the shade of their summer enclosure or their more sheltered winter enclosure.  He knows they have enough space, because “Some space in their area is still covered in grass, which means they haven’t had time to get to it all – it means they have plenty of room.”  Letting chickens act like chickens means their stress levels are at a minimum; they don’t have to fight each other for space, they have a variety of food to eat, and they can focus on living happy chicken lives.

gabor1It may sound surprising to hear that Gabor’s eggs aren’t certified organic.  They’re free to live in the open, and aren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics.  But Gabor raises his chickens in an environment that’s about something even more important: he focuses on living locally.  In his own words, “Local creates community.  Organic doesn’t.”  Today, the term ‘organic’ is regulated by the government, which unfortunately means that it’s expensive to become certified, and the term doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is produced in a sustainable, humane way.  Gabor’s chickens and gardens are designed to be sustainable; he doesn’t have to buy commercial chicken food or fertilizers, but relies on the resources in and around Amherst.  This includes recycling food waste from the All Things Local café; chickens eat grains, of course, and they love the vegetable leftovers like carrot peels.  So even though they’re not certified organic, they are local, sustainable, and produce delicious eggs!

The benefits of these eggs go even deeper than taste.  All eggs provide some level of vitamin D, an essential nutrient that plays an important role in bone health and digestion.  One study found that free range chickens living outdoors produced eggs with four times more vitamin D than chickens living in battery cages[1].  Imagine eating four supermarket eggs to get the amount of vitamin D in just one of Gabor’s eggs!  It’s important to note that just because eggs are labeled ‘free range’ doesn’t mean they have all the space they need; commercial free range chickens can still be packed together, which makes them stressed out and more likely to fight.  Another study found that chickens treated similarly to Gabor’s had twice as much carotenoids than commercially produced eggs[2].  Carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A, which is essential for vision, and can also act as antioxidants, which protect the body from damaging chemicals.  Carotenoids give foods a yellow or orange color, which is why Gabor’s eggs are so much brighter than those bought from the grocery store.

Why don’t all eggs just get these benefits?  It’s simple – chicken farms don’t know how to manipulate hormones and nutrition to produce eggs as good as Gabor’s.  The simple truth is that there’s no substitute for chickens’ natural diet and habits when it comes to producing good eggs.  This is food that you can feel good about buying, and really enjoy eating!  If you haven’t already tried them, pick up some of Gabor’s Eggs next time you’re in All Things Local and see the difference for yourself.

To support Gabor and other producers like him, please become a member and buy your food at the All Things Local Cooperative Market!

atlSources:

[1] Kuhn J, Schutkowski A, Kluge H, Hirche F, Stangl, G. Free-range farming: a natural alternative to produce vitamin D-enriched eggs. Nutrition. 2014;30(4):481-4.

[2] Hesterberg K, Schanzer S, Patzelt A, et al. Raman spectroscopic analysis of the carotenoid concentration in egg yolks depending on the feeding and housing conditions of the laying hens. Journal of Piophotonics. 2012;5:33-39.

Original Post was in the All Things Local Newsletter

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