Fresh, free-range eggs are truly delicious, and we are lucky that they are available from many of our independent retailers and market stalls. The sales of free-range eggs increases every year, as shoppers have realised how many chickens are kept, and we don’t like it.
When you buy local rather than from the supermarkets, eggs can be much cheaper. I have bought fresh free-range eggs from many of the farmer’s market stalls, Hedges Farm, local greengrocers, butchers, school summer fairs and from boxes outside people’s houses. Prices can be as low as 90p for six eggs. Compare that to Sainsbury’s eggs which are 89p for six “barn eggs” and £1.58 for six free range eggs. The term “barn egg” is classic misleading marketing. No sun-dappled rustic barn for these chicks: barn eggs come from an industrial unit housing thousands of hens, with nine hens sharing one square metre. They don’t go outside, ever, although they are not caged and can shuffle around inside if they can find the space.
If you buy local can you be sure of freshness? Not every local producer or hen owner wants to go through the hassle of getting official markation on their eggs, so it really is about using your common sense. If in doubt, ask when the eggs were laid. Chances are they are fresher than supermarket eggs laid miles away and kept in storage before making it to the shelves. Some supermarket eggs can be up to three weeks old, yet still labelled as “fresh”. I think well worth opting for local.
You might have seen the The Chicken Run project stall at the Wednesday St Albans market, where you can buy excellent fresh free-range eggs for £1.20 for six. Based at Oaklands College, Smallford Campus, Chicken Run cares for a range of chicken breeds, mainly hybrids with a few pure breeds to get a range of shell colours. You can also go to the college on Tuesdays and Thursdays (12-1) to buy direct from the project. The stall is not always at the market, depending on college holidays, but if you are in town, do look out for it at the Cathering Street end. You can sometimes get more unusual eggs including duck and goose, which sell for £1.80 for six duck eggs, and £1 per goose egg. Honey and apples are available when in season, and you can also pick up logs and kindling, which come from a sustainable source on campus. Look out too for chutney made by the Oaklands catering students. It is all delicious, and of course, very local.
The Chicken Run project helps Oaklands College Landmark learners with moderate learning difficulties get work experience by looking after the chickens and running the farm shop. Any takings are invested back into the project.
Zoe Hyde, Lecturer at Oaklands College, told us: “It’s such fantastic experience for the learners to run and manage their own market stall. Running a stall at St Albans market is a dream come true for us and we hope that the public will enjoy meeting the learners and of course buying the eggs, logs and kindling for sale.”
Where to find them
Chicken Run Farm Shop, Oaklands College – Smallford campus
Hatfield Road, St Albans AL4 0JA. Tel: 01727 737 713
For more information visit http://chickenrunfarmshop.oaklands.ac.uk
6 chicken eggs: £1.20
6 duck eggs (when available): £1.80
1 goose egg: £1 (when available)
Inn on the Park are hosting their popular annual easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday 11-3pm. Tickets are £2, which you can pick up in the café. Simply follow the clues to claim your chocolate egg, and look out too for the Easter Bunny, who usually joins in each year.
Willows rare breed eggs
I was very interested to hear about a new breed of hens over at Willows Farm that will be particularly appealing to children. Four hens and one cockerel of the April stultus breed have become residents at the popular St Albans farm. They originate from Brazil so are used to a warmer climate, but they have been very happy in St Albans enjoying our burst of warm spring weather and their unusual diet of raw cocoa beans. They are farmed for their distinctive eggs, which are glossy brown in colour. Do go and visit if you can over Easter.
Pic caption: Dr E Benedict, Willows Farm