It’s Always Girls’ Day Out at Big Paddock Farm

Some surprising facts from the farmer about eggs and chickens

These ladies are liberated. All 50,000 of them. They spend the morning dining, strolling and dust bathing, which is like a body scrub at a day spa. They prefer to do this communally so they can chat.

At Whangaripo valley near Matakana, we food writers walked Big Paddock Farm as their free range hens followed with friendly interest. They were happy to be held and stroked, when not pecking at our worm-like shoelaces. Nearby cattle help scare off predatory hawks and feral cats.

Owners Mathew and Jill Quested were our hosts. Matthew gave us a tour while correcting common assumptions. Related birds in the wild are used to being in flocks of tens of thousands. Free range hens do not have the strictly controlled diet of caged cousins, so egg sizes vary and are a nuisance to grade. Small eggs tend to be from younger hens and might be more nutritious. Ideally eggs should be eaten within 4-5 days of laying, but in the supermarket are probably 35 days old. Deep orange yolks are usually due to synthetically coloured feed. Even if organic feed is used there is no guarantee it is non-GMO. Free range meat chickens need to be reared indoors for the first 22 days. Surprisingly, they are then able to move outside for only about an additional 10 days before slaughter. How does this warrant the free range name badge and price?

Philosophy Creates Practices
Big Paddock Farm sells its eggs under that name locally and in supermarkets under Otaika Valley Eggs. Sometimes I have bought a different brand of free range eggs. I was horrified to discover that this is but a sneaky sub-brand from an inhumane cage-egg producer. But hey, the carton had a nice photo of a family on the farm!

It is suspicious when a major cage egg producer also offers free range. There is often something missing when the motive is purely profit without the originating philosophy. The premise is the same with big bread companies that start making gluten-free versions. The loaf will be without gluten, but often contains numerous artificial additives, cane sugar, highly refined milk powder, fractionated soy, cheap oils and more. Such companies are not motivated by the holistic perspective and so don’t factor in its principles.

Meat Chickens
In New Zealand nearly all farmers breed Cobb or Ross chickens for eggs or meat. These have been selectively bred over many generations to put on weight very quickly. Matthew’s statement checked out on the poultry industry page of a government website. At only 34 to 42 days old, broilers (chickens reared for meat) reach the desired weight of about 2kg and are then slaughtered. Chickens would normally take six months to fully mature.

Four main standard producers of broilers dominate the market. The largest is Tegel, owned by Singapore private equity firm; then Ingham’s, owned by Australian investors. Next is Brinks, 50 per cent owned by Van der Brink family and 50 per cent by the VDB investment group. Turks is a smaller family-owned producer in Taranaki.

There is no legislated definition for “organic” or “free range”, so independent certification is required. Only a handful of farms offer organic broilers. Organic standards require chickens to be reared for at least 52 days. Companies such as Bostock (available at supermarkets and butchers) wait for 8 to 10 weeks. Bostock also manages every aspect of rearing, growing their own organic feed, doing their own slaughtering and packaging to ensure complete oversight.

Back to the Farm
Eggs are an excellent source of easy to digest and highly utilisable protein. A great choice for babies, children, the ill and the elderly  – and just about everyone else. Wonderfully little on the farm is wasted. Older eggs are wanted by bakers for making the best meringue. Eggs found in the paddock are given to pigs. Old birds are used for stewing (prized for flavour by savvy Chinese customers) or later yet for pet food. Excrement from the roost is used as fertiliser by farmers who then need less chemicals.

Light triggers laying. If you could look inside a hen there would be about 35 eggs in different stages of development. As one reaches maturity a hard calcium shell is created. We were shown one which had been expelled without a calcium exterior. It could be squeezed like a bouncy ball.

After our tour came brunch: scrambled eggs with chives, two types of local smoked salmon with leafy greens, warm artisan bread and homemade cinnamon brioche. Jill produced all this with relaxed competence in the cosy farm staff kitchen while a proprietary hen walked in to visit.

 

Eating South America

From the fish, fruits and serious threats of the Amazon, and the sensual caffeinated throb of Brazil, to Argentina’s wine and beef estancias and the cosmopolitan Paris that is Buenos Aires. From the ancient customs of the Andes-hugging villages of Peru to Lima’s indie food scene including its top restaurant Central, currently ranked #5 in the world. I came, I ate and – like the resident anacondas – I slowly digested. Read more

AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS: When Your Body Attacks Itself

What Psoriasis, Lupus, Rosacea, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Coeliac Disease, Graves and Sjogren’s all share

Do you feel tired, with aching muscles or joints and perhaps skin, mood or digestive problems – just never quite right? Lab tests might indicate attacking autoantibodies: protein markers of autoimmune disorders.

After a period of physical or psychological stress – perhaps a major infection or personal loss – the body’s heightened response might not return to normal. Your immune system is designed to defend against pathogens (viral, bacterial, parasitic or fungal), other invaders, and damaged cells such as cancerous ones and then return to a watchful calm. Instead it can become chronically hyper-vigilant and assault its own tissue, or protein fractions from common foods (perhaps gluten, dairy or potato). Read more

The Demon Drink You Give to Children

Picture yourself seated at the dining table and devouring one kilo bag of sugar. New Zealanders average even more added sugar than this each week.

Auckland University Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences hosted a two day symposium: Sugary Drink Free Pacific by 2030? Rarely have I heard esteemed scientists so vehement in their views. Endocrinologist Robert Lustig (his expose on sugar has over 4 million views on YouTube) said, “Sugar is the alcohol of the child”. He explained how this food is processed differently than other fuels, which leads to fatty liver. Dr Richard Johnson, kidney disease specialist, diagrammed how sugar lowers ATP production – our key vitality provider. He employed a verb used with caution in science, “Fructose causes metabolic syndrome”. This cluster of markers is associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney disease and dementiaRead more

Your #1 Key to Weight, Mood and Vitality

BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION – Your #1 Key to Vitality, Mood and Weight Management;
and the Prevention/Treatment of Diabetes, Cardiovascular and Hormone Related Problems ©  

        

Your survival depends on cells receiving fuel in the form of just the right amount of glucose or blood sugar. It is the job of the hormone insulin to courier this into cells. The Brain is your most glucose hungry organ and the first to feel its lack. All carbohydrates – from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains or legumes – eventually get broken down into glucose. What differs is the speed at which they do this.

Individual foods have been measured in this regard and placed on a scale called the Glycemic Index or GI. Carbohydrate foods that are slow to break down – such as Legumes (dried peas, beans and lentils; TIPS), nuts, seeds, most vegetables and fruits, plus hearty, crunchy wholegrain products – are termed low GI. Those that digest rapidly into glucose such as Sugar, most white rice, and finely milled bread, baking and cereals (of one highly refined, uniform texture) are high GI. Eating too many high GI carbs at a meal stimulates a surge of excessive glucose. The pancreas then produces and releases more insulin as extra courier vans. Over time though, high levels of insulin are life threatening and the cells start to refuse it entrance. But by becoming resistant to insulin they are also unable to access its critical glucose fuel. Read more

Do You Know What Your NAILS Say About You?

Nails have practical value (such as picking up objects and scratching), aesthetic value and diagnostic value.

They act as a protective plate in contrast to the many sensitive nerves in your fingertips there to provide information when you touch something. Have you ever noticed how women shoppers are more likely than men to touch objects they are evaluating? Women’s bodies have more nerve receptors: for example 34 nerve fibres per square centimetre of facial skin compared to men’s 17… Read more

Elite Dining in New York: Counting Calories or Pennies? Fuggedaboutit

One of the pleasures of travel planning for me is to check out the esteemed World’s 50 Best Restaurant list and make my dream choices.

Most of these dining destinations have waiting lists of one to two months (Google prestigious The French Laundry and find over 7 million results for “how to get a reservation”). Some take your credit card details upon booking and charge you the full price for no-shows. And all of the places internationally among the 50 Best list that I have ultimately eaten at started by saying no, they were fully booked. On this trip it was easier for me to arrange a 20 minute meeting with New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, now in charge of the #3 job at the United Nations (yes, this meeting really took place), than to be immediately deemed table-worthy at New York’s culinary top 5.

Read more

Are You ACIDIC? Why You Need POTASSIUM to Keep You Alkaline

…and Your Heart Beating; Nerves Calm; Digestion Working; Nails, Joints and Bones Strong

Potassium is powerful: too much or too little can make your heart stop beating. Although many foods contain this alkaline mineral, your storage sites can become depleted if you are frequently stressed, or your body or diet is too acidic (check for aches, pains, reflux and other digestive complaints, coated tongue, bad breath). Your body prioritises keeping your blood slightly alkaline. If it is too acidic, then potassium and other alkaline minerals (especially magnesium and calcium) will be withdrawn from bones, joints, teeth, hair, nails, and your muscles including the heart.

Read more

MENOPAUSE: How to Avoid Being a Red Hot Mama or Anxious Annie

A sticker as seen on a – probably menopausal – woman’s car:

“I’m out of estrogen and I have a gun”.

As a female when you were in utero your entire life’s supply of about 400,000 eggs was formed. While your complex and delicate ovarian tissue was developing, any toxic environmental exposures could have altered or shortened your reproductive ability. Sensitivity to these Chemicals is the most common factor to unexplained male and female Fertility problems (see website TIPS articles). The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that the air inside a typical home is 2–5 times more polluted than the air outside due to standard cleaners, toiletries and other vapour-emitting materials. In some cases contamination is 100 times worse. New habits – and antioxidants, especially high in vegetables and fruit – can help protect you.

Read more

IRON: Are You Red-Blooded, Hot-Headed or Pale-Faced?

Iron levels are like most nutritional issues: too much or too little can leave you tired, sick, even fatally so.

If you tend to: low blood pressure, fatigue, dizziness, depression, restless leg syndrome; swollen, sore or bright red tongue; acne; mouth corner sores; frequent infections or slow to heal; menses heavy, missed or with spotting; are cold, pale, weak or breathless, you might be low in iron. If you tend to: high blood pressure, fatigue, irritability, depression, inflammatory conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD); dislike heat, get red in the face; bronze or gray skin; joint or abdominal pain, you might be high in iron.

Read more