Breaking nature's promise

Eggs I asked for eggs from a supermarket near our vacation cottage in Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts. The brand is Nature's Promise (Trademark). The carton says, "Grade A. Naturally raised hens - no antibiotics, no synthetic hormones, and no synthetic pesticides."

"Natures Promise (Trademark) products represent what nature intended -- free from artificial ingredients to deliver true flavor, great taste and made with respect for the environment. Products you can trust for your family's health and well being - naturally. That's our promise to you."

Like the eggs in the photo, these are a beautiful rich brown, evenly sized. They came encased in two layers of a fold-out clear plastic case bearing the information that it has been recycled once. And Please Recycle.

Here's what also caught my eye: "We keep our birds under our wing, making sure they're fed only natural grains." That's where the use of the word "natural" grated a bit too hard.

Chickens' natural diets include a lot more than grain, and chickens' natural habits are to roam around a bit, not stay "tucked under our wing," except as chicks. Recently smart grass farmers have learned how to return chickens to their natural environment -- pasture -- and still give them places to get out of the weather, places to lay eggs and avoid predators.

Chicken Tractor

The "chicken tractors" grass farmers invented now support the fine hens at my favorite certified organic farm, Elmwood Stock Farm in Scott County, Kentucky. Check out the photo - you'll see chickens on grass with a small house handy, all enclosed in a sizable fence. The fence moves often, so the chickens get fresh pasture often. I'm no farmer, but I think the chicken tractors are a lot close to what nature intended than feeding hens completely on "natural" grains.