Where to Buy Organic and Ostrich Eggs
In honor of National Egg Month, we’ve highlighted two Columbia County farms that offer more than just your average egg
On a recent camping trip with friends, Larissa Carson was proud to be able to make breakfast for her whole group — four hungry campers — by using just one egg. Nope, they weren’t on the latest fad diet; she simply used an ostrich egg. This oversized orb is roughly the equivalent of about two dozen chicken eggs. “An ostrich egg tastes similar to a chicken egg, but it weighs about three pounds,” says Carson, who works with Highland Farm in Germantown.
The farm, which was established more than two decades ago, has been raising ostriches for eggs and meat (“which is a lean red meat and tastes like an earthy steak,” says Carson) for the last six years. They currently have a small herd of 13 birds, and each one typically lays 40-60 eggs between April and September, according to Manager Mike Ruffell. Eggs can be purchased at the Rhinebeck and Kingston farm markets for $15-$18 each, depending on size.
In addition to eating the eggs, many customers want to keep the shell — which measures five inches in diameter and has a thickness similar to porcelain — for decoration or crafts. “You can use a power drill to make quarter-inch holes on the top and bottom and blow out the egg, keeping the shell intact,” Carson says. The contents can be used right away or stored in a sealed container and refrigerated or frozen. Carson knows of one woman who stores the egg in ice trays; the contents stay fresh, and she has perfect portions. “It’ll last in the fridge about week or so; when you’re ready to use, just shake and pour,” says Ruffell. “They’re fluffier than chicken eggs and taste great scrambled.” According to the American Ostrich Association, it takes about one-and-a-half hours to hard-boil an ostrich egg.
“People come up to us at farmer’s markets and say, ‘Wow, I bet that makes a big omelet.’ But there are so many other ways to use the eggs: quiche, frittata, mousse,” Carson says. “A pastry chef at Terrapin once used one of our eggs to make 170 brioches.”
At farm markets further south, you’ll find other rare egg varieties that are produced at Cowberry Crossing Farm in Claverack. The farm has several different breeds of chickens; individual breeds produce eggs in different colors, including shades of green, yellow, red, and blue — not what you commonly see in local stores or markets. “A variance of colors looks much more organic. And we have mothers who say that if they can’t get kids to eat regular white or brown eggs, they’ll eat green eggs,” says Richard Harrison, who owns the farm with his wife, Cecile.
When it comes to organic products, Cowberry Crossing isn’t just about looks. The Harrisons maintain a certified organic, biodynamic farm — meaning that it’s self-sustaining — and they try to raise their livestock as humanely as possible. The chickens, for instance, lay eggs only during their natural, biological season (March through July). “If chickens receive extra light or heat through the year, they’re fooled into laying year-round,” Harrison says. “It’s not good for a chicken to produce out of season because it’s going to wear down. When it should have had rest, it didn’t, and now it has a chance of dying early.”
Harrison grew up on a dairy farm but got into biodynamic and organic farming mainly because he wanted to eat the healthiest food possible. The farm has been around for 11 years and their eggs — which sell for $7.25 per dozen — have become quite popular at the Hastings and Pleasantville farmers markets in Westchester. Because the chickens are fed organic grain, the yolks differ in color and flavor than generic supermarket eggs. “The yolk is very bright orange, which means it’s mineral-rich,” Harrison explains. “People swear by our eggs because they’re tastier. You’re getting the healthiest possible egg by not messing with the chicken. You’re guaranteeing your own health.”