Attendance at the Des Moines Farmers Market was down significantly because of Saturday’s stormy weather, but vendors who sell organic eggs still sold every egg they had.
Eileen Lundberg of Runnells bought the last three dozen eggs at one booth. “The eggs have been rather popular lately and I’ve been buying them this way for a long time, just because I feel like I don’t mind paying more for organic food because I’m also paying for somebody to take care of the land and I always like Blue Gate’s eggs,” Lundberg said. “I trust them. They’re always clean.”
Lundberg, a regular customer at the Blue Gate Farms booth at the Des Moines Farmers Market, wasn’t surprised by the nationwide recall of eggs produced at two operations in Iowa. “But I didn’t panic or anything because I don’t ever buy my eggs at the store,” Lundberg said.
Sarah Riley of Des Moines bought a dozen Blue Gate Farm eggs on Saturday. When the egg recall hit, Riley had some of the farm eggs in her refrigerator.
“Actually, I had family in town and I was really grateful because my entire family’s from Wisconsin and they all said, ‘Do we have to take these eggs back?’ And I said, ‘Well, no, because they come from a farm and my son’s been to the farm,'” Riley said. “And so he talked about the chickens at the farm.”
Sean Skeehan and his wife run the Blue Gate Farm near Columbia, Iowa — about an hour’s drive from Des Moines. Demand for eggs from their “free-range” hens has skyrocketed since the egg recall. “That first Saturday after the big scare, a lot of people were asking,” Skeehan said. “…We only keep about 120, 130 birds, so we only bring to market 25 (dozen) any given weekend, so if you’re not here early, they go.”
Blue Gate Farm has regular subscribers who get deliveries of the “chemical-free” vegetables, fruit and eggs the couple produce. This past Saturday, the Blue Gate Farm stand featured everything from basil to honey — as well as eggs. Skeehan said there’s a difference in the taste of eggs laid by grass-fed hens compared to laying hens that are only fed grain.
“Typically, you can tell by the color of the yolk,” he said. “For chickens that are raised on grass for most of the year, they’ll have a very dark golden yolk.” And Skeehan said the whites of his organic eggs are not as “runny” as store-bought eggs.
As you would expect, Skeehan’s no fan of the operations that are at the center of the salmonella scare. “I wasn’t surprised. I was very disappointed,” Skeehan said. “Large-scale agriculture — factory-sized — that’s the norm and most people don’t know where any of their food comes from, let alone their eggs.”
Jack DeCoster, the owner of Wright County Egg, last week offered a public apology to the 1600 Americans who were sickened with salmonella that investigators have traced back to the operation.