Lucie and Jason Amundsen, the owners of Locally Laid Egg Company, a family-owned chicken and egg farm in Wrenshall, Minnesota, are the quintessential farmers of the ever-increasing local food movement.
The farm embodies all the elements of the local food movement by raising free roaming, salad-eating chickens who naturally forage on the pasture, and are supplemented with GMO-free feed.
Locally Laid birds are allowed to run around freely eating grasses, clover and tasty bugs. “For these birds, life is good. And to show their gratitude, they produce a healthier egg,” reads the narrative on their website.
Jason Amundsen started with a backyard flock and increased his poultry knowledge from esteemed sources such as Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” as well as the many books of environmentalist farmer Joel Salatin.
When Jason discovered there were no local eggs offered at a nearby Whole Foods Co-op, Jason saw an opportunity; he then mentored with the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association, University of Minnesota Duluth Center for Economic Development, and Springfield Farm in Maryland.
After his sustainable farming apprenticeship, he opened his Locally Laid farm, which he now runs with his wife Lucie and their two children.
She’s nearly done with a book about Locally Laid entitled, “Playing Chicken.”It’s her thesis project to finish her MFA of Creative Writing and will be shopping it soon.
Locally Laid eggs are available at select grocery stores in Minnesota’s Northland, the Twin Cities and Western Wisconsin, as well as multiple restaurants in the Duluth and Twin Cities areas.
The company partners with a farm in Iowa that produces Locally Laid eggs to its pasture-raised standards, and is announcing a new Midwest farm in mid-November. Locally Laid also has a line of chicken feed for backyard hens called LoLa’s Layer Mix.
* Locally Laid uses solar powered hen houses
* Created a carton return program with grocery stores benefiting trees
* Plant a tree for every delivery
* Locally Laid was awarded a Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success award presented via the UMD Center for Economic Development.
Are Their Eggs Certified Organic?
In an email from the company, Jason Amundsen said they looked very carefully at that and decided not to go organic because:
1.) The erratic nature of organic feed price.
2.) The distance the closest organic feed mill’s trucks would have to travel to service us weekly – 8 hour trip one way – and we felt that that would just create greater C02 emissions.
Locally Laid uses a feed mill 7 miles from their farm and they store their non-gmo corn in a separate bin.
And on their website the company seems to take issue with the term “organic,” claiming it depends what one means by “organic” adding:
“The only thing an organic label guarantees is that the birds are fed with a certified organic feed and they’re cage-free. Which is a good step, but like most chickens in America, they never see the sun.”
That said, Locally Laid eggs are about as close to organic as you can get. Their chickens forage plants and insects and are fed GMO-free feed, so I’m not so certain it matters if Locally Laid Eggs are certified organic.
In 2010, the Cornucopia Institute investigated organic egg production and found numerous instances across the U.S. where industrial-scale operations were managing thousands of hens in single houses without offering adequate access to the outdoors” yet they could legally sell their eggs as organic.
“These operations make a mockery of the organic principles and threaten the livelihoods of countless real organic poultry farmers who are farming to the high standards consumers rightly expect”
Locally Laid stresses their chickens are pasture-raised as opposed to free-range, which they explain only means that animals are allowed some access to the outside.
“There are no regulations that specify the size of the outside space, if it is grass, dirt or cement, or the duration of the chicken’s outside time. It does not mean that these hens eat any sort of fresh field greens.”
Locally Laid has a point. If most food manufacturers used actual images from their egg farming systems, standard egg cartons would display endless rows of caged hens, all with their beaks trimmed to prevent them pecking each other.
And so-called “cage free”eggs may come from hens raised without cages, but they almost all spend their lives indoors in vast barns or warehouses with thousands of other hens in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions, and receive routine doses of antibiotics.
On the other hand, pasture-raised birds like those at Locally Laid live on pasture with full access to shelter. Chickens graze on fresh grass, are given feed, and have lots of outside space to exercise and function as a flock.
And Locally Laid claims they use NO ANTIBIOTICS.
Farm Partnerships and Expansion
Locally Laid offers farm partnerships to farmers who want to raise eggs to Locally Laid pasture-raised standards, distribute locally and license the Locally Laid brand. Locally Laid handles the sales & marketing via contract production.
Farmers interested would be required to create what Locally Laid refers to as “value chains,”seeking out and working with non-GMO corn growers, feed mills, farm suppliers and grocers & restaurants in their region.
In an email, Jason Amundsen indicated Locally Laid produces eggs in Minnesota and Iowa and will be launching a new Midwestern farm where they will be producing eggs for that Midwestern state probably by early December.
“Those eggs will be sold within 200 miles of where they’ll be produced. Please follow us on Facebook for that announcement.”
Jason adds: “I think what’s different about locally laid is that we’ve made brand differentiation core to what we are; we stand out on the super market shelves. That said, we’ve made ourselves highly replicable and are poised to expand quickly across the country.”
Locally Laid Egg Company is one of 4 companies vying to win Intuit’s 30-second spot at the Super Bowel. Daily clicks are needed at VoteLoLa.com.
Please show Locally Laid how much you appreciate their local farming model by taking a few seconds to vote with a click.
Locally Laid has advanced to the Final 4 in Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest. If selected as the winner by popular voting, the company will receive a television commercial during football’s biggest game, February 2, 2014.
“We are blown away,”said Jason. “Literally, everything we have as a family is invested in this farm. To have that vision of an environmentally focused kind of agriculture lifted up to this national level is just wild”
The Amundsen family found out they were in the Final 4 when a limo arrived at their farm last week with several Intuit employees and Bill Rancic, television host and winner of the first season of Donald Trumps reality show, The Apprentice.
“It was wet, cold and muddy out on the pasture and our surprise guests could not have been more gracious,”said Lucie Amundsen, co-owner of Locally Laid. “They came into the paddocks, picked up chickens and asked great questions about the way we farm. I’m pretty sure some of them had to throw out their shoes after”
Tens of thousands of companies entered the contest, which began in August. 15,000 advanced to the contest’s second round, which required 4 essays and an introduction video.