Cathy’s Cooking Corner

In the last newsletter I wrote, “If you know of something to wrap the burritos in other than foil to heat them to go, I’d love to hear from you. I like to use as little foil as possible because of aluminum’s implication in Alzheimer’s.” I received several replies suggesting I use parchment paper. Thank you! I thought maybe the rest of you would like to know, too.

Speaking of those wonderful eggs, I decided to put my basic quiche recipe in this newsletter. I would say it is probably our family’s favorite way to eat eggs. It is a never-fail recipe with its silky texture and savory flavor. This is also a great way to use leftovers. It is a great main dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner.


1/2 pound sausage, bacon, hamburger or meat of your choice, fried
1 cup shredded cheese (or more)
Your choice of veggies: sauteed onions, mushrooms, tomato slices, steamed broccoli, olives, wilted spinach or kale, eggplant, zucchini slices, sauteed garlic, etc.
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups light cream
1 Tbsp. mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Unbaked 9-inch pie crust

In the bottom of the pie crust, layer the meat, then the veggies of your choice and top with the shredded cheese. In a mixing bowl mix together the eggs, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the cream and mix. (A stick blender works beautifully.) Pour into the pie crust over all. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Then reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake 30-35 minutes more until knife comes out clean when inserted in center. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Serves 6. Enjoy!

Maybe you have a favorite egg recipe you’d like to share. I’d love to hear from you!

Time to Put Eggs Back on the Menu

The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food after many years of warning people not to eat high cholesterol foods. It has been discovered that for healthy adults, eating high cholesterol foods does not significantly increase the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease. This is something that has been known for a number of years, but has just now been acknowledged by the government. (Why didn’t scientists and doctors know that dietary cholesterol didn’t significantly increase blood cholesterol years ago?)

So now you can eat your Jehovah-Jireh pasture-raised eggs without any guilt. We do recommend that you do not eat an excessive amount of eggs at one time – definitely not more than one dozen eggs at one time. I say that in jest, eggs naturally tell you to stop eating after you have eaten several eggs. They are not like some foods where you want to keep on eating.

To read more about the amazing reversal in scientific opinion on dietary cholesterol, you can check out this Washington Post article.

All of this makes me wonder how many other “scientifically” proven “facts” are error, and we will look back years from now with amazement of how naive and unscientific we were.

Cathy’s Cooking Corner: Egg Burritos

We recently discovered a wonderful breakfast food to stock up in the freezer – egg burritos. I had decided to make up a bunch of meat and bean burritos and then decided to try some egg burritos. I wasn’t sure how well the scrambled eggs in the burrito would freeze. Would they be good or would they be rubbery or watery? I’m pleased to tell you that they were wonderful. Since I didn’t want to store them in aluminum foil, we wrapped them singly in plastic wrap and then froze them. After they were frozen, we grouped the burritos in gallon Ziploc bags and put them back into the freezer.

Frozen Egg Burritos

Flour Tortillas
Eggs, scrambled
Sausage, fried (or whatever meat you want)
Onion, sauteed
Cheese, grated
Sour cream

Assemble the burritos, putting on whatever condiments you desire. Some other goodies would be olives, avocado slices, pickled banana pepper slices, ketchup, etc. Close the burritos with a toothpick and wrap in plastic to freeze. To warm, take the plastic off the burritos, place them in a covered pan and heat in a 350 degree oven till they’re hot. If you’ll be eating them on the run, you can wrap them in foil and heat them. I also like to thaw them overnight so they don’t take as long to bake. Delicious!

If you know of something to wrap the burritos in other than foil to heat them to go, I’d love to hear from you. I like to use as little foil as possible because of aluminum’s implication in Alzheimer’s.

UPDATE: I received several replies suggesting I use parchment paper. Thank you!

What Gives Our Chicken and Turkey Meats Superior Flavor

We hear many compliments about our chicken and turkey meats. But the one that we hear the most is how good they taste. We all know that chickens and turkeys raised on pasture taste better than conventionally raised poultry raised in large chicken houses. The grass and other plants in the pasture are an important part of the flavor, but it was not until this past month that I found out something else that we are doing that significantly contributes to the flavor and health benefits of our chicken that is different than most other pasture-raised chickens.

Last month, Cathy and I and some of our children had the privilege of attending the Mother Earth News Fair at the Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania. One of the seminars that I attended was given by a professional butcher who understood the importance of grassfed meats and the science behind it. One of the things that he said was that muscles that have more activity are the meats that have the most flavor. Muscles that have had very little activity, such as beef tenderloin, are the most tender but also have the least amount of flavor.

He said that fat is what gives meat flavor. Muscles that are exercised more have small amounts of fat dispersed throughout the meat because the muscles need the fat stores for energy as they work. It is those small deposits of fat that gives those meats more flavor. Here in America, people have prized tender meats over flavorful meat. Tender meats are achieved by confinement rearing that limits the exercise of the animal or poultry. The result is that conventionally produced chicken, beef and other meats are usually lacking in flavor.

The thing that we are doing that is different than most pastured poultry producers that we allow our chickens to run. Most pastured poultry producers use the “Salatin pull pen” or “chicken tractor” method. It is a method in which 50 to 75 chickens are placed in a small 10 foot by 12 foot bottomless pen on pasture. The chickens probably get less exercise than what chickens do that are raised in large chicken houses because they are limited by the small confining space. I say that from my observations from working on a large confinement poultry operation when I was in college and from when we tried the “pull pen” method. In the large chicken houses, because they are not confined to a small 10′ by 12′ area, the meat birds can move about more.

Not only does the exercise give our chickens more flavor, but the fat that gives it flavor is a good fat. The fat is in a meat that has been able to get omega-3’s from the grass and store those omega-3’s in the fat. The exercise gives the chicken meat a more firm texture, but it is still tender and a good eating experience.

One of the keys to flavorful meats is animals that have been able to get plenty of exercise. In buying meat, ask the farmer how they raise the meat. Unfortunately, there is a growing trend among grassfed producers to move toward confinement on pasture such as mob grazing of beef. In mob grazing, a large number of animals are confined in a small paddock, such as 1/4 acre, on the pasture until all the grass is eaten or trampled into the ground. They are then moved to another small paddock. The cattle are moved three or more times a day, but they are confined in a small space 24/7. Mob grazing is supposed to do great things for the soil, but in my opinion, it is not humane to the animals.

Mob grazing 1000 head of cattle. There is approximately 1.2 million pounds of weight in cattle grazing this strip.
Not all mob grazing is this intensive but the animals do have to be bunched in a “mob” with the equivalent of  200,000 plus pounds of animals per acre so that they consume most of the grass in a short period of time.

Turkey Sausage Quiche

 This is a basic no-fail quiche recipe that everyone in our family just loves. The meat, cheese and veggies can be varied to whatever you desire at the time. Yum!

Unbaked 9-inch pie crust
1/2 pound turkey sausage (recipe below)
4 eggs
2 cups light cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons mustard
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
1/3 cup sauteed, chopped onion

Fry turkey sausage. Sprinkle into pie crust. Top with onion and then with cheese. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, mustard, and salt. Add cream and beat. Pour over all in pie crust. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake 30 minutes more or until knife comes out clean when inserted in center. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.
Variation: Vegetables of your choice can also be added such as spinach, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant or zucchini. Serves 4-6.

Turkey Sausage

1 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix thoroughly and fry. (Best if mixed and let set in fridge for at least an hour before frying.) Use half of the sausage for the quiche and save the rest for another use.

International Poultry Producers Expo

In January, Cathy and I (Myron) attended the International Poultry Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a huge event with 28,000 attendees from all around the world. The Poultry Expo was located in two very large buildings and it took us an entire day to look at the exhibits in each building. Most of the expo was geared to the big poultry growers and processors, but not all of it. For us it was a very profitable trip. We were able to find some good products and suppliers as well as other helpful information to be able to provide you with even better eggs and chicken.

After we left to return to our motel, our first day at the Expo, we got caught in the snow storm that paralyzed Atlanta. Fortunately, our side of the highway was not blocked and we were able to make it back to the motel. At 9:00 pm there were still 99 school buses stuck in traffic. Some school children spent the entire night on their school buses! The second day we were not able to attend the Expo because the highway was still blocked with tractor trailers.

The International Poultry Expo, Atlanta, Georgia

This is a cage system for laying hens. Each cage is divided into about 4 cages which hold about 4 or 5 hens. This cage system is only four levels high.

This was a picture at the Expo showing the cage layer system with hens in it. It is how most grocery store, restaurant, and fast food eggs are produced. These cages are stacked five high. Each cage is only wide enough for 4 hens to be side by side. This is the way most hens live their entire life and shows part of the reason why we feel it is so important to provide our hens with a better living environment. As I look at this picture some of the descriptions that come to my mind are: “jail birds”, prison labor, and mechanical egg laying machines, as well as inhumane, heartless, and greedy.

The organic and pasture based farming movements are making an impact on society, and the big pharmaceutical companies are getting concerned. Two large poultry and animal pharmaceutical supply companies have launched a campaign to combat our influence with this fancy, expensive tractor trailer rig that they had at the Expo. Inside is a theater where they show movies knocking organic and pasture based farming, claiming that in order to feed the world we must use large confinement animal facilities (and of course their drugs and antibiotics).

Read the egg label carefully. It is not misspelled. We saw these eggs at a booth promoting pasteurizing eggs (similar to pasteurizing milk). Egg companies know that consumers want eggs that come from chickens on grass, not from chickens stuffed in small cages. They often design their egg cartons, like this one, in a deceptive way to give the impression that their chickens are happy hens that roam in the outdoors on grass.

Our Quest for a Better and More Humane Way to Produce Eggs on Pasture

One hundred years ago, most eggs were produced by true free-range hens on family farms. But as egg production became more mechanized, the chickens were put into confinement chicken houses, with many of them in tiny cages stacked three or four high to get as many hens in a chicken house as possible. In the past 50+ years, much of the knowledge of how to produce eggs on pasture on a larger scale has been lost. In many ways, we feel like we are trying to reinvent the wheel again in regards to pasture-raising chickens because so many of the important little details have been lost. What works for a small family flock of less than 50 hens becomes far too labor intensive when you have 3,000 hens on pasture.

Why would a farm want to have 3,000 hens on pasture? The reason is that in order to have 100% of our income from the farm, and to be able to pay our sons a living wage for working full time on the farm, we have to have enough income. Most small, pasture-based farms receive a majority of their income from off farm sources and are stretched thin making a living off-farm and trying to give adequate care to the farm and animals too. For a farm to try to make a living from only 200 hens would be like a doctor who is a general practitioner only having one or two patients a week,  or a mechanic trying to make a living by changing oil in only two cars a day.

As we looked around at the various methods of raising chickens on pasture, we were not pleased with what we saw. The main promoter of pasture raising eggs, Joel Salatin, recommended the use of moveable hen shelters that one moved on a regular basis to new grass areas. It is a method that makes a good story and that works in the warm months of the year, but when winter comes it is a method that becomes very labor intensive with frozen water hoses and difficult access to the hens through mud and snow. In the wintertime, the pastures quickly get torn up and muddy moving the chickens around. If the hens are kept in one spot the ground gets totally denuded of grass and turns to mud with likely manure runoff and erosion. Salatin’s solution is to move his hens into confinement chicken greenhouses for five or six months during the winter with no outdoor access for the hens. The eggs then are no different than white confinement chicken house grocery store eggs for about half the year. That was not acceptable to us.

To learn how to best raise chickens on pasture we did a lot of research. We visited both the Library of Congress, and the National Agricultural Library several times and researched books and publications that were written in the early 1900’s. Then, taking a blend of old technology and modern technology, we developed, over a number of years, a system that provides a good living environment for the hens, protects the soil and grass from being destroyed, and provides you with a high quality, nutritious,  excellent tasting pasture raised egg.

Our first hen shelter design was the one pictured below. It was stationary. The pasture was divided into six paddocks that radiated out from the shelter. There was a door on each end of the shelter and on each side. Each week we let the hens out a different side of the shelter into a new paddock and let the paddock that they were just in rest for the next five weeks.

This shelter and setup had many problems. The picture was taken the last day we used it. The shelter was too low, and too small for the hens on rainy and cold days. There was not enough space to keep them penned up when it was too muddy for them to be outside. The dark sides encouraged them to lay eggs on the floor. The feed and water were outside. In rain, snow, and the bitter cold, the hens had to go outside to eat and drink. As a result the grass got killed and they tracked lots of mud in and onto the eggs.

We worked with a Soil Conservation consultant, and he helped us design a heavy use area for the hens. We call it the picnic area, and it has wood chips on the ground like a playground. It gives the hens a place to scratch, dust bathe, and dig.  The picnic area is an important management tool that we use help protect the pastures from becoming destroyed and denuded of grass. In the picture above, it is the fenced areas to the left of the shelters. The picnic area is always open for the hens 24 hours a day so that as soon as it starts getting light they can go outside. During the warm months of the year, the hens are let out into the pasture about 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning and the gate is closed again at dark to protect them from night predators. The hens are confined to the shelter and picnic area any time that it is too muddy and their little feet would trample the grass into the mud. In the winter time when the grass is not growing, the hens are only let out on the pasture for two or three days a week. This protects the pasture, while allowing the hens to have some grass throughout the winter to help keep up the nutrient content of the eggs. Each week we also bring home 10 to 15 big boxes of organic vegetable trimmings from the stores where we sell eggs, and feed the veggies to the hens. This helps them get their greens when they can’t be out on pasture as much. We also significantly increased the size of the shelters to make it more roomy for the hens. We raised the height of the roof to make it easier to work in the shelters and to let the heat rise and escape from the hens on those hot summer days.

This is inside our new hen shelters. The sides are open at floor level so that the hens stay cool in the hot summer months. In the winter, we cover the sides and one end with clear plastic. The light that comes in the sides close to the floor helps to discourage the hens from laying eggs on the floor.

These are our hen shelters in the winter time. Each flock has about two acres of pasture. The small sheds along the lane beside the shelters are the nest houses where the hens lay their eggs. The nest house concept was an idea that we got from a book written in the early 1900’s. The central lane makes it efficient for hauling feed to two shelters at each stop and also for gathering eggs.

We designed geo-thermal waterers for the hens. The blue barrel, with the bottom cut out is buried halfway in the ground. The waterline from the well is buried in the ground to keep it from freezing and it comes up through the bottom of the barrel. The geo-thermal heat from the soil keeps the water in the small two gallon bucket on top from freezing on all but the coldest nights. The most that it freezes is about an inch on top, which we remove in the morning when we check on the hens. These waterers also help to keep the water cooler for the hens on the hot summer days. Also, for those hot summer days we installed fogger nozzles under the peak of the roof to help keep the hens cool.

We developed a predator-resistant fence that has made life a lot simpler because we don’t have to move the fence like the electronet fences have to be moved. The wires of this fence are electrified. It does a good job of keeping out foxes and other predators and keeping the hens in.

This is one of the nest houses that we designed and custom built. In the nests and the trays are blue astroturf nest pads. The hens lay their eggs in the nests and the eggs roll out into the tray. This design helps keep the eggs clean and simplifies egg gathering.

Inside the nest house. The hens access the nest house through a covered ramp from their shelter. The floor is slatted to discourage them from laying eggs on the floor and to make the nest house self cleaning. That is also important to keep the eggs clean.

Our method of raising eggs on pasture is part of what goes into making some of the best tasting pasture raised eggs you can buy. We do not feel like we have “arrived”, but we continue our quest to have the best, most humane, environmentally sensitive method of raising chickens that we can. We also are continuing our quest to produce the most nutritious meats and eggs that we can for your health and ours. As our slogan says, we are: More than a farm — A living laboratory researching the secrets of food, health and life.”