Before I came to Montana, I was completely ignorant of the agricultural abundance of the state. For me, Montana brought to mind ranches, wheat, and nothing else. It is a state of contrasts between mountains and wide open spaces, and has a vicious northern climate. Pretty hard to farm anything, right?
Over the past eight months or so, I have time and again been proven wrong and amazed at the diversity of produce this state has to offer. A short growing season limits production of some crops, and especially fruits-it can frost late August or early September-but hardy wheat thrives here. In the grocery stores you can buy all matter of locally produced grains. Bread baked in Bozeman uses grains from Bozeman. My morning oatmeal is Montana grown. Gotta love it.
'Big sky' country, as it is called, is also well-suited for raising beef, lamb, and bison with all of the open grazing land. At the Bozeman Coop, an oasis of Montana and local products, there are many products from bison, beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. There are also locally produced eggs, butter, milk, and cheese. Pretty much any product you would want.
Last week I bought some local farm fresh eggs laid by free range, antibiotic-free chickens. They came in a regular container, but were all manner of sizes and colors, from white to tan with brown speckles to a deep brown. I cooked some up alongside some generic store eggs that were also "fresh eggs" and "extra large" according to the packaging. Here is the result.
The ones on the left are generic, while the ones on the right are the free range local eggs. Beautiful. They were richer, lighter, and fluffier than the generics. That is what eggs should look like. I am fairly certain the generic eggs were from a factory farm where the chickens hardly ever saw the light of day or got to forage for food in green pasture. You know, the natural things chickens want to do. Nutritional studies also show that healthier chickens-free range ones that are not fed antibiotics-are better for you. Here is a good article on pastured chickens vs. factory farm. Win win win win.
Here's to buying local-for the local economy, for the welfare of animals, and for a superior product with eggcellent taste. Yum.