Of course the next week I stopped by to see my friend to affirm his point and to see if I could get more. He informed me that his chickens produced enough for his family and not much more. Since it was illegal to raise chickens in the urban environment AND to sell his oval delights, he couldn't be my source on a regular basis. So my hunt was on. I have now found 2 or 3 sources, but along the way I found out more about why these golden yoked gems are so difficult to find and prized by so many.
"I'm with the government and I'm here to help."
The state of Florida (and most states) has decided that we're not smart enough to learn proper handling of eggs for general consumption. The 'one size fits all' mentality of state regulators decided that only eggs that are sanitized, washed and rinsed in a certified commercial operation should be allowed to be consumed by you and me. In other words, we can't learn to wash the eggs before cooking and wash our hands afterwards. Yes, this is where bacteria such as salmonella lurk.
Make no mistake about it: These procedures are necessary if you decide to buy and eat these eggs. But what these limiting regulations from the state do is destroy the small egg producer's business, leaving it all in the hands of 'big egg' (factory farm egg producers). The small guy just can't afford the cost of following the regulations.
Black Market eggs.
My tree-hugger friends pointed out that egg shells are not the solid compound that most of us think they are. The shell is actually porous, and sanitizing the eggs allows the detergent to penetrate the shell, damage the flavor and erode the benefits of eggs. I tend to agree with this, but I also realize that eggs found at the grocery stores were laid 2 to 4 weeks prior. Freshness does just about as much to flavor as the sanitizing.
When you do find fresh eggs straight from a small farm, they must be labeled "For Pet Consumption Only'. Kinda of a "don't ask, don't tell' mindset for food regulators. The farmer also must have a Pet Food License. So there's another license for the financially restricted small farmer. When you add all the requirements together, you see why most tend to stay out of the business. If they're raising chickens, they only raise enough for their own consumption. Raw milk is another item (that will be discussed later) that finds itself in this category.
There are quite a few others across the country that are on the journey to get access to good eggs. Cities are allowing people like you and me raise our own chickens. Places like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Madison, Wisconsin, and Mobile, Alabama have revised their 'chicken' laws to allow urbanites to raise a limited number of chickens to get their own eggs. This has been done by grassroots movements that have shown their lawmakers the benefits of isndeavor. Websites like Feathered Families and Backyard Chickens promote this idea and assist in how best to raise your chickens.
Locally, I'm amazed at the number of people who have told me they are raising their own eggs in their respective neighborhoods. The do's and don'ts they have told me are essential to this - 1) no roosters (too noisy) and 2) contacting their neighbors of their intentions to make sure they aren't turned in to the food police.
Changes afoot in Florida?
Currently the University of Florida's Extension Service (UF/IFAS) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDOACS) are in discussions to revise the guidelines for raising eggs. I don't know where or how far along this discussion is, but I do know it's time to speak up. Contact your local county Extension Office and voice your opinion. There is currently a survey being passed around by the Extension Office that I recommend you take. Let them know how you feel about the current regulations and take the survey. If we educate ourselves on proper handling of these eggs, we all can benefit from having these available.
John the Forager