Fresh Eggs: Do Happier Chickens Produce Better Eggs? | Midwest Living
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Fresh Eggs: Do Happier Chickens Produce Better Eggs?

At a free-range chicken farm in Missouri - and the kitchens of chefs who love the eggs - we learned why cooks are flocking to locally grown eggs.

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    The chicken and the egg both come first for Jay Maddick
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Pricey but popular

The Maddicks originally sold their brown eggs at the local farmers market and to customers who drove to Lathrop to get a weekly supply. Soon, enterprising chefs hunting for premier ingredients, including Colby and Megan Garrelts of the award-winning Bluestem Restaurant in Kansas City, found the 280-acre farm.

"At first, we said we couldn't deliver enough eggs to them," Carol says. "But eventually, we geared up for it, and now I deliver 15,000 eggs a week."

Carol loads the eggs into a refrigerated truck bought from a cookie-dough salesman and makes a circuit among small health-food stores, upscale restaurants, country clubs and grocers such as Whole Foods. The grocery chain sells 16 kinds of eggs, including certified organic, Omega-3-enriched and fertilized eggs (reportedly favored by couples convinced residual rooster sperm enhances the chances of conception).

Campo Lindo eggs are pricey, between $2.69 and $2.99 a dozen at retail. And they can drive up per-plate costs at restaurants, but chefs say they're worth it. Classic Cup Cafe at Kansas City's Country Club Plaza reserves Campo Lindo eggs for "sunny-side up" orders because they have saucer-size, orange-yellow yolks that stand impressively high.

Debbie Gold, executive chef and owner of 40 Sardines, says, "They bring a depth of flavor and character to pastries you can't get otherwise." Jane Zieha, owner of the Blue Bird Bistro in Kansas City's West End neighborhood, showcases them in house specialties. "We love them in a hollandaise," she says. "The color is so wonderful."

The Maddicks rarely eat out themselves— too busy on the farm. The last time they did, Bluestem Restaurant owner Colby Garrelts delivered a bottle of champagne to their table. At home, however, it's eggs at least three times a week. "We don't observe the 100-mile diet," Carol says. "It's the 100-foot diet. These days, though, nobody gets excited when I say, 'Hey, how about an omelet?' "

(Originally published in Midwest Living® March/April 2008)

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