Replicating brunch dishes from Michael's Genuine Food & Drink or Yardbird Southern Table & Bar requires much more than just following a recipe. Because, like many South Florida restaurants dedicated to sourcing ingredients responsibly, these eateries serve eggs from Lake Meadow Naturals.
Located in Ocoee about 250 miles away from Miami, the farm is owned by Dale Volkert, a relocated Wisconsiner with a passion for sustainable agriculture. While most of the agriculture industry is stepping away from small-scale operations, Volkert continues to take pride in the proper care of his chickens.
He raises heritage breeds that are recognized by the American Poultry Association, with a lineage that can be tracked back for multiple generations. The chickens at Lake Meadow Naturals are also fed an all-natural vegetarian diet, packed with grains and without any artificial additives.
But Lake Meadow eggs are very different from what can typically be found at the grocery store. Labels and buzzwords are slapped all over egg cartons in supermarkets. Most terms are most commonly used as marketing ploys, and not clear standards.
One of the labels found on egg cartons in supermarkets is "cage-free". This means the chickens are not cooped up in battery cages. They could, however, still be kept in cramped conditions in a wide space, like a barn or warehouse.
The USDA-regulated term "free-range" means that chickens have access to the outdoors. It does not promise that the chickens actually spent time outside.
Lake Meadow Naturals is well-known for "doing things the old-fashioned way". Volkert's chickens spend time outdoors on the grass and they are also cared for by a dedicated team. These are the eggs that can be labeled as "pastured".
With deep orange yolks and a richer flavor, pastured eggs taste much better than conventional eggs. But they also happen to be more expensive. Whereas a dozen conventional eggs typically retail from about $2 to $3 dollars, a dozen pastured eggs cost anywhere from $7 to $9.
Whole Foods stocks pastured eggs from Vital Farms, based out of Austin, Texas. Eggs from Lake Meadow Naturals can be found at the Yellow Green Farmer's Market in Hollywood and other markets in Broward/Palm Beach. Eggs from other farmers, such as Alice Pena's PNS Farms, can be found at farmer's markets across Miami.
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The video below explains the vocabulary associated with eggs: cage-free, free-range and pastured. The project, the Lexicon of Sustainability, is part of an educational web series created by advocates, Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton. Available also on PBS Food, "The Story of an Egg" features small-farmers discussing the importance of buying eggs from responsible, sustainable sources.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.