What you need to know about Organic Eggs and Meat?
I sat down to chat with owner of Belbeck's Farm, Kate Belbeck and she was so helpful to answer my questions about Organic farming and some of the great programs that they offer.
Belbeck’s Family Farm is a pre-certified organic, mixed livestock farm offering CSA shares for beef, pork, chicken and eggs. Our animals are raised to meet the Canadian Organic Regime requirements and are raised in way that is better for our customers, our animals and our environment. We also offer a Rent the Chicken and Hatch the Chicken program for people who want to try their hand at backyard poultry keeping or hatching chicks without a long term commitment.
Q: Where do your chickens come from and do you have to have a rooster to produce eggs?
A: Chickens are amazing! They will continue to lay eggs on a schedule even without the presence of a rooster! This makes them perfect for backyards because it is the roosters that are noisy, not the hens! On the farm, we do keep some roosters as we hatch our own chicks. What we can’t hatch ourselves, we purchase at a day old from licensed hatcheries.
Q: What is the difference between brown and white shelled eggs?
A; Despite the misconception, what is inside the shell is exactly the same! Its the food and living conditions of the hens that affect the quality and nutrition of the eggs, not the shell colour. Shell colour is influence by breed alone. In fact, we have some purebred heritage hens that lay blue shelled eggs! Brown eggs are more costly in grocery stores simply because the hens are larger and eat more, and typically don’t lay quite as often so it costs a bit more to produce a brown egg.
Q: What do you feed your chickens?
A: Our chickens are free ranging so they eat a wide variety of grasses, plants, and bugs. We do feed them an organic prepared diet as well to ensure they get the proper balance of vitamins and minerals, especially in the winter when there isn’t much grazing!
Q. How do your eggs taste compared to what we buy in the grocery store?
A: Free range, organic eggs have a rich flavour! You will notice immediately that the yolks are a deep yellow orange colour, are more rounded due to the freshness, and the whites are much firmer than store bought eggs. Our eggs make it to our customers within days, sometimes even hours of being laid, and not weeks like commercial eggs.
Q: Can customers buy eggs outside of the egg share?
A: Absolutely! Our egg share customers have first priority and a bit better price because the pre-purchase allows us to plan better. Our egg share eggs are graded which allows us to deliver them to our customers or via our convenient CSA pick up locations. We have eggs available for pickup at our self serve farm gate station during various hours on a first come first served basis. Visit our website for hours and location: belbecksfamilyfarm.ca. We are conveniently located just outside of Guelph near Arkell.
Q: What grade of meat is your meat?
A: Meat purchased directly from the farmer doesn’t go through the same grading system as supermarket meat. All of our meat is processed at licensed facilities and is inspected. Our meat is well marbled and very healthy and delicious
Q: Do you give antibiotics or hormones in your feed or directly to your animals?
A: No! We are an organic farm so our focus is to minimize stress to our animals which minimizes the need for antibiotics. Our animals are raised in a more natural way so we don’t use hormones or steroids to try to speed up that process. If our animals do become ill, we try homeopathic methods, but will never withhold medical treatment if it is necessary. If antibiotics administered directly to the animal is the only way to treat an illness, that animal is clearly identified and will never be sold or marketed as organic.
Q: How much grain feeding and how much grass feeding do you do?
A: Our cattle are 100% grass fed (or hay fed in the winter). All of our animals are pastured and able to forage but poultry and pigs need more than just grass to survive. They are also fed a prepared, organic diet in addition to the pasturing.
Q: What breeds do you use and why?
A: We maintain a small herd of registered Scottish Highland cattle but don’t limit ourselves to one breed for our beef production. Individual traits are more important to us, such as the maternal abilities of the cows, and the ability of the animals to develop well-marbled meat in a grassfed environment. Our pigs are Berkshires, renowned for their flavorful, high quality pork.
Q: Can we buy meats without a meat share?
A: Yes. Our meat shares are offered in various sizes and are a better price as it allows us to plan in advance. We have a payment plan to make it more affordable. Our meat shareholders have the first priority when it comes to our meats, because with some types, we are limited in the quantity we are allowed to produce annually. Meat cuts outside of our shares will be available first-come, first-served from our on-farm store during the summer season. We are also exploring the possibility of being at some farmers’ markets. Our roasting rabbits and ducks are available on an individual basis only.
Q: I’ve heard that you rent chickens, what is that all about?
A. We do rent chickens! Our Rent the Chicken program is perfect for anyone who wants to try raising backyard chickens for their own fresh eggs daily right from their own backyard! Our rental includes a portable coop, 2 or 4 hens, feeder and water dish, food and a great book! Its a great way to try it out without a long term commitment, struggling to keep hens warm in the winter, or figuring out how to build a coop. The rental season is May to November. We also offer Hatch the Chicken hatching rentals where you can experience hatching eggs and the baby chicks before they return to our farm.