Answers To Your Most Common Questions

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  • How many small family farms do you partner with? 

    We work with over 200 independent, family owned and operated farms in our network. These farms are typically run by a single family and small enough for each partner farmer to manage, delivering hands-on care to our hens, while still leading rich and fulfilling lives. We are very proud of the fact that our company can provide a realistic living for many families that want to farm holistically in a world of industrial-scale agriculture.

  • Where are your family farms located?

    Our home farm began in the hills of New Hampshire along the Connecticut River Valley. Since then, we've partnered with many farms located across New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of the U.S., and we're always expanding our reach! You can find more information about our family farms and their locations here.   

  • May I join your network of small family farmers?

    We'd love to chat with you about joining the Pete & Gerry's Small Family Farm Team! Please send us an email at familyfarmteam@peteandgerrys.com and we’ll pass your questions onto the right team member. 

  • Do you give your hens hormones?

    We do not give our Pete & Gerry's hens hormones. In fact, it is illegal for anyone raising poultry to administer hormones. 

  • Do you give your hens antibiotics?

    We do not give our hens antibiotics, and all our flocks enjoy plenty of space in clean, uncrowded, and safe barns. Offering antibiotics to laying hens as a preventative measure was adopted by factory farms to offset the filthy, disease-spreading environments that their hens experience every day. 

  • I've read some bad things about male chicks. What happens at Pete & Gerry's?

    Before answering, we’d like to explain a little about how our farms work. We are deeply committed to how our free range and pasture-raised hens are treated from the day they are born. We take ownership of our hens when they are delivered to us at roughly 16 weeks old. Prior to joining us at our farms, these hens are hatched at a hatchery and raised by small family farms in humane pullet houses. The hatcheries which supply our hens are operated by companies who own the rights to the genetics of their hens. These hybrid breeds have been developed especially for egg-laying productivity and it is what makes commercial egg farming possible at the prices consumers currently enjoy. They are not bred to be suitable for meat as those are very different breeds. We do not have the resources or expertise to produce our own breed of egg laying hens, so we have to work with these hatcheries.

    Once the chicks are hatched, they are sorted by gender. The female chicks will become egg laying hens and are transported at one day old to the pullet house. Unfortunately, there is no role for male chickens of this breed in egg farming. And, male chickens from laying breeds are not suitable for meat because they mature very slowly.  Additionally, they cannot be kept with the hens. In a free range or pasture-raised environment, the roosters tendency to fight would create a terrible, inhumane environment for hens. So, given that there is no viable market for the male chicks, the hatcheries euthanize them. To do this, the hatcheries use one of the practices recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association.  We do not have control over which practice they use and it varies depending on the hatchery.  However, none of the practices are very appealing. We wish that there was an alternative, but there currently are no hatcheries available to us that produce chicks without male chick culling.

    However, we don't believe in standing idly by and passing the blame onto hatcheries. They enable our farming families to succeed, so we must own some of the responsibility for current practices.  As part of our commitment to the humane treatment of hens from the very beginning of their life, we're serious about doing our part to end this practice. We have spoken with company leaders at the hatcheries and advocated for the end of male chick culling. The hatchery/hen genetics industry is very consolidated with only a few companies worldwide. They are headquartered in Europe where there has been much greater political will to force change. For example, the German government has stated that male chick culling will be phased out in Germany in coming years.  Germany, the Netherlands, and the European Union, in partnership with the hatchery parent companies, are providing financial support to various university research efforts occurring in Europe. There are several in-egg technologies to sex the eggs, which are rapidly progressing in testing and we expect some of them to be in widespread use in the future. We maintain contact with researchers at the University of Leipzig, Germany and Project In Ovo in the Netherlands, whose work is focused on commercializing a prototype in-egg sexing technique.

    While we cannot change the entire egg industry overnight, we are committed to building a sustainable business at a scale large enough to create meaningful progress in the way laying hens are raised and treated in the U.S. Currently, over 90% of eggs consumed in the U.S. are produced in horrific caged environments. We're confident that as consumers become more interested in how our food is produced, we'll continue to see improvements in the humane and ethical treatment of farm animals from their first day to their last.

  • What happens to sick or injured hens?

    Thanks to our coops and pastures remaining spacious and clean, we rarely have this issue because our hens are healthy and well cared for. Nevertheless, our farmers keep an eye on their flocks all day long. Whenever we find a hen that is sick or injured, we segregate her, treat and then return her to the flock once she’s back to full health. In general, we have far fewer challenges with disease and injury than inhumanely raised, caged hens because our flocks enjoy access to the outdoors, fresh air and water, and endless opportunities to socialize with their friends.

  • What happens to your hens when they're too old to lay eggs?

    We've definitely thought long and hard about the best way to deal with our hens at the end of their laying days. There are several options to consider. First, we could keep them ourselves. In order to feed and house our retired laying hens for the remainder of their lives, we estimate that the cost of a dozen eggs would be well over $12.00 at the shelf. We feel that this would not be affordable for our supporters.

    Additionally, this price tag would prevent us from achieving our goal of building a sustainable business at a scale large enough to create meaningful change in the way laying hens are raised and treated in the U.S. The next option is adoption. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a way to make this work either. While there is some interest locally in adopting hens, there is not nearly enough for us to move several thousand hens in time for the new flock to arrive. Our last option is for the hens to be sold for food. Even this option is not without difficulty as laying hens have far less meat than broiler hens, which are bred specifically for that. Many commercial egg laying hens are simply euthanized and landfilled at the end of laying. As farmers, we believe that sounds incredibly wasteful.

    So, while we know some consumers will be unhappy to know that our hens go on to be used for food, we do feel it’s the most responsible thing to do. At the end of a flock’s natural laying cycle, we contract with several poultry transportation and processing companies to purchase our birds. These companies send crews to our farms to pick up the hens. The crews are trained and certified in the humane handling of poultry. At this point, the hens belong to that company, but we have worked with them to ensure that our birds are going to acceptable follow-on markets. There are currently two main markets for our birds with each receiving about half of the overall quantity. One is live poultry markets where consumers are able to select live birds for consumption. The other is a US federally inspected processing plant which specializes in processing “light poultry” including laying hens. This plant uses the latest technology to ensure that the hens are quickly and humanely slaughtered.

    For consumers who want eggs from hens that are never slaughtered, we understand our eggs will not be a suitable option. We encourage these consumers to raise their own hens for which there are excellent resources available online. 

    While it’s important for us to continue to move the bar on humane egg production, we also feel that it’s important to remember that over 90% of eggs consumed in the U.S. are produced in horrific caged environments. For those hens, their best day is the day when they are finally put out of their misery. We believe Adele Douglass, the founder of Certified Humane, said it best, “Our hens only have one bad day.”

  • Do you feed you hens corn or soy?

    While our hens are Certified Humane, and thus can spend most of their days foraging for bugs and tasty greens, they are not ruminants, like cows, and therefore cannot get 100% of their diet this way. That’s why we provide our flocks with a supplementary feed containing corn and soy. The soybeans are a great source of additional protein, while the corn provides carbohydrates. There is also a wide range of other beneficial nutrients and minerals in our feed that help to keep the hens healthy, like electrolytes and calcium. To learn more about the care we take in developing our feed mix please check out this blog post

    We have never received any reports of corn or soy allergies being triggered by eating our eggs. But if you have soy allergies, or gluten sensitivity and questions of that nature, The American Egg Board website is a good resource. Their research suggests that despite some soy in hen feed, eggs should probably be considered gluten free and likely have undetectable levels of soy remaining in them. That said, it’s always wise to seek the advice of your own physician with anything related to allergies.

  • Do you debeak your hens?

    Our farms do follow a practice accepted and recommended by Certified Humane, our third-party animal welfare certifier, of mild beak trimming. This is not for our financial benefit, but for protecting the weakest members of our flocks. The goal of a correctly administered beak trim is to prevent a sharp hook from developing on the end of the beak. The scientific committee of Certified Humane determined that a very minor trim of the sharp tip of the beak on or before the chick is ten days of age is humane, and often more humane than leaving aggressive hens with a means to hurt other hens, no matter how much space available to them.

    Our company is always looking to do things even better. Recently, we began transitioning to an infrared mild beak trim performed at the hatchery when the chicks are one day old. The benefits of this method include a more consistent and even trim, less stress for the hens because they don’t have to be caught and handled, and less risk of disease for the pullets transmitted from the beak trimming crews who visit multiple farms. We hope to fully convert to this method over the coming years as the hatcheries which service our small family farms upgrade their equipment.

    A great resource for more detailed information about our animal welfare standards can be found at Certified Humane’s website here.

  • What does pasture-raised really mean?

    In general, pasture-raised eggs come from hens given ample access to the outdoors. Our pasture-raised flocks are raised to Certified Humane® Pasture-Raised standards, which allows them to roam freely on expansive green pastures with 108 spacious square feet of outdoor space per hen. They can exhibit natural hen behaviors like perching, dust bathing, socializing with friends, foraging for juicy worms, and soaking up sunshine. You can find more information about our pasture-raised eggs here.

  • What does free range really mean?

    Free range means what it sounds like, which is during most times of the day and year, our hens are free to roam outside as they please. This is very different from cage-free, which sounds good, and is better than being in a tiny cage, but still basically means that hens live in a massive warehouse of a barn with hundreds of thousands of other hens, in floor-to-ceiling caged enclosures, with no access to the outdoors. 

    We do have to insure that our hens remain safe from predators and disease from wild birds, so we don’t allow them outside if ground predators such as fox or coyote are seen in the immediate area. And during migratory bird season, we protect our birds from exposure to diseases such as avian mites or Avian Flu. You can find more information about free range here.

  • Is that the same thing as cage-free?

    Not even close. Cage-free may be the new standard in some states (though converting all of the factory farms from battery cages to cage-free will take considerable time), but it’s nothing like free range or pasture-raised. In fact, cage-free often doesn’t even mean what it says. These hens are, quite often, still packed into giant industrial-scale warehouses with floor-to-ceiling cages (generally called “aviary systems”). The only difference is that they have slightly more freedom of movement within the system. While not insignificant given how cruel the current battery cages are, this is a far cry from one of our “floor barns” where hens can go wherever they want, perch, hang out with pals, or go outside to forage for insects or dust bathe. Cage-free is simply a farm with a slightly less-cruel cage system than before. Learn more here.

  • What does organic really mean?

    All our Pete & Gerry's Organic Eggs come from humanely raised hens on small family farms. With our organic eggs, the main difference comes down to the supplemental feed offered to our hens. For organic flocks that call Pete & Gerry's home, every ingredient in their feed is 100% USDA Organic Certified. This means there are generally no synthetic pesticides used to grow the corn, soybeans, and other ingredients in their feed and everything is GMO-free. Also, the pastures our organic hens love to explore are never treated with chemical pesticides or fertilizer.  

    Some natural pesticides are allowed by the USDA in special circumstances, but organic standards do not allow the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, or chemicals such as glyphosate (Roundup). To control pests and maintain healthy crops, our organic grain farmers employ mechanical and cultural tools like insect traps, careful crop selection, predator insects, and beneficial microorganisms. In the rare event of an insect or pest infestation, they do have a carefully selected list of approved natural pesticides which they can use. Learn more about organic eggs here


  • Should I eat eggs past the best before date?

    The best course of action for determining whether your eggs are safe to eat is to check the best by date, along with a few pieces of information that can help determine their freshness. Once a carton has passed its best by date, or 45 days from being processed, those eggs are considered expired and we’re unable to guarantee any safety or results from consuming them.

    According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA): “Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them must display the “pack date” (the day that the eggs were washed, graded, and placed in the carton). The number is a three-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year (the “Julian Date”) starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365. When a “sell-by” date appears on a carton bearing the USDA grade shield, the code date may not exceed 45 days from the date of pack.”

    For a full explanation of the details on our eggs' best before date and tips for telling whether your eggs are still good, check out our blog

  • Do you wash the eggs? Does that impact their quality?

    Due to FDA regulations and food safety requirements, we must wash our eggs before consumers can receive them. We use a light, organic approved soap to wash our egg shells. After the eggs are washed, they are sanitized with a mild chlorine solution. Our Quality Assurance team monitors critical control points like wash- and rinse-water temperature, detergent levels, etc. This does remove the cuticle (or bloom) from the egg, which is a natural protective coating that typically remains on unwashed eggs, but we must wash them per FDA requirements.  

  • How does nutrition impact yolk color?

    Natural fluctuations in yolk color can happen for a variety of reasons: flock age, changes in weather, time of year, and even flock location. The bugs that our hens peck at also can play a part in the yolk color as an unpredictable increase of protein in their diet. Each flock and individual hen is unique, which tends to be reflected in their eggs.

    We routinely check our free range and pasture-raised eggs for yolk color and find they are typically much darker than caged, factory farmed eggs. We're committed to offering our hens a more natural and varied diet, but sometimes these humane practices can lead to lighter yolks from time to time. 

  • What causes blood spots in an egg?

    Blood spots are caused by the rupture of a blood vessel on the yolk surface when it’s being formed. Typically, the presence of blood spots is an indication of a very fresh egg. As an egg ages, the blood spot diffuses across the white and becomes almost undetectable over time.

    Blood spots can occur in up to 6% of all brown shelled eggs. From time-to-time, the incidence of blood spots in eggs increases above the normal, 6% rate, when the hens in a flock get excited by changes in lighting, changes in temperature, or when they catch a cold. Candling methods reveal most eggs with blood spots and those eggs are removed, but even with electronic spotters, (as we have) it is impossible to remove them all. We also carefully inspect the eggs with cameras that check the interior when we package them but due to shell density, color, contrast and depth, some of these eggs do get through. Sometimes, if the spot is small, it can be cut out with the tip of a knife and the egg is still perfectly fine to eat.

  • What causes double yolks?

    Double yolks are fairly rare (about 1/1000) and double-yolked eggs tend to be very, very large. These eggs are typically are graded as ‘Super Jumbo’ due to their size. Double yolks primarily come from younger flocks whose bodies are just learning how to lay eggs. All of our farm fresh eggs are run through the sorting machine together, and any eggs identified as Super Jumbos are sent to the first packing station to be packed by hand because they're too big for the machine.

    The hand packing station fills Jumbo cartons with Super Jumbos all day long, placing each carton in the same case, which explains why rare double-yolked eggs often end up in the same carton. All of these larger eggs are packaged together as Jumbos (even though they are technically Super Jumbos), and over 50% tend to have double yolks. 

  • Why do some eggs float in water?

    Any egg that floats in water is likely very old and should not be eaten. Every egg contains an air cell that occurs naturally and expands as the egg ages. Once enough oxygen has had time to permeate the shell, the air cell can grow large enough to keep the egg afloat in water. We suggest tossing any eggs that float in water, or learning more about the water test for checking egg freshness on our blog here

  • Are your liquid egg whites pasteurized?

    Our 16 ounce containers of liquid egg whites are pasteurized and are great for most baking applications. Want to find locations where our egg whites are sold? Check here

  • Can I use your liquid egg whites to make meringue desserts?

    Because of the effects of the pasteurization process on the protein structure, our liquid egg whites will not whip to soft or stiff peaks and are not recommended for any meringue-style recipes. This includes meringue cookies, meringue toppings, meringue-based frostings, and whipped egg white components in recipes such as fluffy Belgian waffles.

    When you whip fresh egg whites, air bubbles generated by the whipping action are held in suspension by protein structures created within the egg white, producing a fluffy and light meringue that will also hold stiff peaks. The pasteurization process changes the structure of those proteins, so they can no longer work together to hold onto the air bubbles. As a result, when you whip the pasteurized egg whites, you will be able to froth and foam them to a degree, but they will continue to stay fairly runny (even with extended whipping).

    These foamy, pasteurized whites do work great for mixed drinks and cocktails as they are safe to consume raw, but for making those classic, crunchy clouds of meringue or silky whipped topping, we recommend good old-fashioned fresh egg whites for the best result.

  • How do I measure your liquid egg whites?

    To substitute for 1 large egg white, use 2 tablespoons of our liquid egg whites. To substitute for 1 large whole egg, use 3 tablespoons of our liquid egg whites. 

  • How many eggs does a hen lay per day?

    It's right around 1 egg per day for most hen breeds. A typical flock will average around 307 eggs per hen over the first 52 weeks of laying, which will slow down a bit as the hens age.

  • What causes different egg shell colors?

    Egg shell color is determined by the breed of hen and is often related to the color of the feathers over the hen’s earlobes. Brown hens, like those on our farms, typically lay brown eggs and white chickens lay white eggs (although there are a few breeds of white chickens with brown ear-feathers that lay brown eggs). However, it's important to note that shell color has nothing to do with the nutritional content or quality of an egg.