Sunday, October 10, 2010

Incredible Egg Tour & A Giveaway

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(Congratulations to Donna - comment #19 - for winning the giveaway!)

Flimsy jumpsuits, hair nets, and booties are not really my thing. Well, that is if you discount those unfortunate days of high school dances in the 80s when DEVO fans liked to “whip it” all over the dance floor. However, I was happy to don the requisite garb last week as I traipsed through the hen houses at the Willamette Egg Farm in Oregon with a group of fellow food bloggers.

Unless you live in a cave on a remote mountaintop, you are aware that the egg industry has taken some heat over the past several months. Fear of salmonella poisoning resulted in one of the country’s largest egg recalls and prompted many families to dump cartons of eggs into the garbage. Fear of this type of poisoning is not unwarranted but, unfortunately, the media often takes a rather one-sided view in this type of situation.

When I was invited by the American Egg Board to learn about the process of bringing eggs to the table, from raising chicks to packaging eggs, I was intrigued. Here was an opportunity to witness sanitation conditions first hand and ask questions that are on many people’s minds.

Now, this trip was not all about chicken and eggs. We were treated to a tour of the vineyards at Domaine Margelle, owned and run by our gracious hosts, Steve and Marci Taylor. Dinner was cooked and served in the chateau by a local chef from Silverton, Oregon.

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The next morning, wining and dining behind us, we got straight down to business. The bus drove us to the buildings owned by the Satrum family, who founded Willamette Egg Farms in 1934. They currently have approximately 2 million chickens and the operation, spread across a few locations, produces 1.6 million eggs per day. Now those are some prolific chickens.

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The first building we visited housed the cage-free chickens in a large open space, outfitted with a variety of floor, roosting, and nesting areas. In addition, there were doorways to the outside pen through which the most adventurous chickens wandered for a change of scene.

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Clearly fascinated by us, the chickens perched on our feet, pecking at our pant legs and investigating our cameras with their bright eyes and curious beaks. And what a noisy lot they were. One rather bold bird flew up and landed on Jennifer’s (see blogger list below) shoulder, from which she earned the name “Triple C” for her calm, cool, and collected demeanor throughout the experience.

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In addition to the cage-free areas, we observed two other housing systems – aviary and conventional. In the aviary system, the birds are in cages for four hours in the morning, when they lay their eggs. The distinct advantage to this system is that the eggs are laid on a litter (manure)-free surface, which is in contrast to the eggs laid in a cage-free system. After the productive morning hours are over, the chickens have the chance to roam out of the cages.

The conventional system is a much more confined environment for the chickens. Six to eight chickens are housed in each cage. While the chickens are at a disadvantage in terms of roaming space, it was evident that this system is very sanitary. The air in these houses was much clearer than that in the cage-free areas.

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When I asked Greg Satrum which housing system he prefers, putting all economic considerations aside, he referenced a system recently put into place in the European Union. It is a caged system that allows for roosting areas and increased square footage for each chicken. While this system is not yet approved for the United States, Greg hopes that it will become the standard in several years, assuming the necessary studies prove that it is in fact a viable system.

We spent the afternoon with Howard Helmer, the world’s fastest omelet maker (making an astonishing 427 omelets in 30 minutes gives him this title) and chef Jeffrey Saad, host of The Cooking Channel’s upcoming show, United Tastes of America (debuts November 16th) and runner-up on The Next Food Network Star.

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Both men are enthusiastic and passionate about eggs and teaching others to cook them properly. Moving between our cooking stations, they offered tips, humor, and patience as we worked to improve our omelet-making, poaching, and scrambling skills.

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Mary Donkersloot, RD, Los Angeles-based nutritionist, offered some interesting nutritional facts about eggs. Eggs, which store half of their protein in the yolk, offer heme protein, which is easier for the body to absorb than the iron found in spinach. They are also high in lutein, selenium, zinc, and zeaxanthin, which are key ingredients in preventing macular degeneration.

While I came away with some newly found egg preparation skills and many new friendships, the most important take-home message was regarding egg farming. Like any other section of the food industry, there are many egg farmers who are diligent about following the necessary sanitation and safety practices to insure the quality and safety of their product. These farmers should not be vilified because of a few of their farming brethren who do not take the necessary precautions. I, for one, will continue to serve eggs to my family on a regular basis. For a quick, healthy, and tasty meal, they simply cannot be beat.

Here are some of my favorite egg recipes:

Asparagus Frittata with Smoked Paprika, Thyme & Feta Cheese
Baked Eggs with Summer Vegetables & Capers
Caprese Frittata with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil
Greek Baked Eggs with Leeks, Kalamata Olives & Goat Cheese
Potato-Crusted Quiche with Pancetta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Spinach

The giveaway:

The lucky winner will win these three items:

1 Simply Calphalon Enamel 8-inch Covered Omelet Pan
1 Cuisipro Silicone 8-Inch Egg Whisk
1 OXO Good Grips Silicone Flexible Omelet Turner

To enter, please respond to the following question in the comments section:

"What is your favorite egg dish?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Entries will be accepted until Saturday, October 16, 2010, 9pm PST.

Bloggers who attended this event:

Amy of She Wears Many Hats
Susan of She’s Becoming Doughmesstic
Jennifer of Savor the Thyme
Michelle, standing in for Mandy of Gourmet Mom on the Go
Lynn of Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
Kelsey of The Naptime Chef
Erin of Prudence Pennywise
Kristy of The Wicked Noodle

Disclosure: This trip and giveaway items were paid for by the American Egg Board.
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27 comments:

Laura said...

What a cool experience to be a part of! My favorite egg dish is a nova lox eggs benedict. It's a rare treat and come to think of it, I'm due to make it!

-Laura :)

Evan @swEEts said...

How fun! My mom has chickens :) They're so curious.. they follow her around like a dog when she's in the backyard gardening!

Definitely love eggs in a good fritata!

Sarah Caron said...

Fun! My cousins run and organic farm and used to raise chickens ... I loved seeing how they were raised. My favorite egg dish is Irish Eggs Benedict (it has hash instead of Canadian bacon).

Patty said...

I remember getting up at 4 am to gather eggs when I stayed at my grandparents house...such nice memories!
I love eggs in any form, but I am mostly a simple girl, and I love love love Eggs-in-a-Hole.

Cheryl said...

My favourite go-to meal is quiche. With just about any combination of vegetables - brocolli, asparagus, tomato, onion, zucchini - the variations are endless.
ccarse@shaw.ca

saveMeEHJeBus said...

i love a simple sunny side egg and omelettes...

i also love quail eggs in Asian soups...soOOo good!

Doreen said...

I love eggs ... they are sooo versatile - hard to choose one favorite egg dish... omelet, quiche, eggs bendict, frittata, sramble ... but if I had to choose just one I'd probably pick a pan fried egg over medium.

AManda said...

I love plain ole over-medium eggs. On a plate. In my belly.

I try to always serve Organic eggs to my family... and love the cage free options!

Blessings-
AManda

Rashmi said...

My favorite Egg dish is egg curry. Hard boiled eggs are shallow fried and then curried. Eat with rice... yumm!

Dee said...

omlette with tomatoes and goat cheese!

De said...

My favorite eggs dish is an eggs benedict, and I love trying different versions of it :)

oneordinaryday said...

My favorite is a sausage and egg bake I make every Christmas morning.

Anonymous said...

My favorite egg dish would have to be an omlette with tomatoes, feta cheese, and mushrooms, but my favorite way to use eggs is to chop hard boiled ones up over a salad.

-Grace
mizcottonball (at) sbcglobal (dot) net

tryityoumightlikeit said...

I love mushroom and spinach omelets with salsa. Eggs are our back-up quick meal for lunch or dinner.

It looks like you had a wonderful time.

Dina said...

Omelets! So many combinations!

Amanda said...

I actually just did an egg blog party last month and learned tons of new recipes. I think I have to vote for either Baked Eggs or a simple Toad in the hole

amber said...

i would have to say scrambled eggs - just keep it simple :-) i haven't really experimented with egg recipes but i'd love to try some.

Harold said...

I recently bought a couple of silicone cups that make the easiest poached eggs ever (my favorite egg dish). Also, I live not far from the egg factory you went to. I'll have to go visit them see their operation. thefarnz@mac.com

Donna said...

My favorite egg dish - Greek Omelet - spinach, feta and olives yum

Danielle said...

Seeing your pictures from the farm makes me not hate chicken farmers quite so much. With all the bad PR they receive, it has painted quite an ugly picture in my mind. I enjoyed seeing the cleanliness and humane surroundings. With that said, I do love eggs. I think my favorite egg dish would probably be a quiche with lots of veggies in it!

Alyse said...

My favorite is spinach eggs benedict on homemade english muffins. Usually, I have to make it for myself.

susitravl said...

I didn't like eggs until I was an adult, and now I like deviled eggs, eggs benedict, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onion & cheese.....

susitravl(at)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

Spanish tortilla :P!!!!! no doubt about it!

Fayanne said...

I like a Spanish tortilla, or the Italian equivalent, a frittata-great way to use up bits of veggies and pasta!

Liz Sullivan said...

Crab benedict! By far my most favorite egg dish - and you get eggs 2 ways: poached and in the hollandaise. Yum!

Becky said...

my favorite egg dish is deviled eggs. they are always, without fail, the first to go at any get-together.

danasfoodforthought said...

I love a simple egg white omelet with some tomato, mushroom, spinach, and feta or goat cheese!