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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Pound Ridge Organics: The Chicken Eggs-Perts: The first and only farm in Westchester County to receive Animal Welfare Approval

Mar 29, 2017 02:05PM

Photo: Elaine Lloyd

When it comes to buying eggs, most people seem to be in the white camp or the brown camp—that is, until they find out about Pound Ridge Organics, where pink, green, beige, olive and dark-chocolate brown eggs are all available for purchase. No matter what the outside color, the yolks are all a rich, deep yellow. According to the farm’s owner and operator, Donna Simons, that’s because the chickens benefit from a nutritious diet of organic grains, bugs, probiotics, vegetables, greens and fruit.

Pound Ridge Organics is the first and only farm in Westchester County to receive Animal Welfare Approval— the highest environmental and ethical standard possible for livestock—and its chickens are of the highest quality, she says. “Our farm is small but mighty. We’re Certified Humane and recognized by the ASPCA, and our eggs are A rated by BuyingPoultry.com.”

Simons’ flock entirely comprises American Poultry Association-certified birds, several of which are on the Livestock Conservancy’s conservation priority list. Five of those breeds are also included in the Slow Food Ark of Taste, a catalog of distinctive foods facing extinction.

Unlike industrial chickens that are hybridized to reach their adult weight in six weeks, heritage chickens grow slowly, reaching adult weight in four to five months, she says. “They live long lives and are naturally acclimated to the outdoors; they run fast and fly distance; they mate naturally and instinctively brood and care for their young.”

And while many farms cull—and eat—their old, nonproductive hens, Pound Ridge Organics’ policy is to keep elders with the flock to graze, forage, mentor the young and enjoy their remaining years, Simons explains.

“Due to their complex social structure, any population changes within a flock, such as adding or removing birds, shifts the hierarchy—the pecking order, if you will—within. Changes can cause stress, which could affect egg quality and production. It’s important to note that non-egg-laying hens are still effective for fertilizing the land, as well as for tick control, a critically important issue in this region.”

When starting a backyard flock or adding new birds to a farm, it is common practice to contact a hatchery— usually some distance away—and place an order, she says. The day-old birds are then packed into boxes and shipped. These fragile hatchlings are crammed together for as long as two days, exposed to jostling, noise, airborne disease and stress, causing some to arrive DOA or die soon after.

To reduce the stress and risk involved in transporting chicks, and to help increase local access to authentic heritage breeds, Pound Ridge Organics will be piloting a small-scale hatchery on its Westchester County farm. The care and handling of the hatchlings will be in accordance with the highest standards set forth by the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) program.

A recipient of the Slow Food Snail of Approval, Pound Ridge Organics will continue to run its year-round, robust food co-op, offering dairy; artisan baked goods; AWA beef, pork, lamb and goat; non-GMO flour and grains; organic and biodynamic produce; its own private-label preserves, maple syrup and honey; and of course its colorful heritage eggs.

Membership in the Pound Ridge Organics Co-Op is free, and buying is free-choice, with no minimums. The list of offerings changes weekly based upon seasonal availability.

Contact the farm to become a member of Pound Ridge Organics, take a cooking class or meet the birds. Simons can be reached at [email protected] or 914.764.3006. Visit the farm online at PoundRidgeOrganics.com.