Episode 6

This is Locally Laid                                      Show Notes

Guest
Jason Amundsen of Locally Laid Farm
Instagram: @LocallyLaidEggs
Locally Laid, the book about his family farm, written by his wife, Lucie Amundsen
Buy It on Amazon
Book Website: www.locallylaid.com

Recommended Further Reading:

Thank You for Being Late, Thomas Friedman

Habit Change: Sources & Additional Reading

Buy your eggs locally, either at your grocery store from Locally Laid or another local farm, or you can buy eggs from a local CSA (community-supported agriculture)! Start thinking about where your food comes from, or even your wine or beer!

 

Minute 00:30: Erin talks about the recent rescinding of the plastic bag ban in Chicago. Now there is a plastic bag tax, but now people can use them again.

Minute 02:00: A review of Erin and Allyson’s minimalism and eco-consumerism efforts.

Minute 04:30: Erin and Allyson preview the interview with Jason Amundsen of Locally Laid. We’re hoping to learn more about pasture-raised eggs and why they are better for you nutritionally and have better flavor. Being raised in the pasture leads to higher quality egg whites, and better meringues.

Minute 07:30: Erin and Allyson have pronunciation issues.  Also, the Show Me State.

Minute 9:05: Allyson provides some background on egg production and consumption in the US. We eat over 250 eggs per person in the US these days. What’s the best kind? Cage-free, free-range, organic, pasture-raised, etc. What do all those terms mean?

Minute 10:20: Erin and Allyson introduce Jason Amundsen, founder of Locally Laid farms.

Minute 11:15: Jason tells us about how Locally Laid operates differently in the winter versus in the spring, summer, and fall.  They actually don’t keep chickens through the winter due to the extreme winters in Minnesota. They have partner farms who provide the bulk of the eggs all year-round, and Locally Laid provides eggs seasonally

Minute 14:05: Jason describes the cycle for egg production from the hens, laying an egg every 26 hours.

Minute 15:30: Jason describes how they make the farm work financially, including supplementing with extra crops like fruit. Locally Laid is now growing honeyberries, a fruit .native to Japan Russia, and they will be the first commercial honeyberry farm in the U.S., as well as raspberries, blueberries, and garlic.

Minute 16:00: Jason describes the difference between traditional farming and their style of farming, different both by scale and season.  Industrial egg farming involves thousands of birds in one large barn with chickens in a cage where they can’t move. 6-7 birds per cage. Pasture-raised is totally different because they are doing things by hand, and dealing with alot of predators, and more labor.

Minute 18:50: How does the amount of land compare between industrial agriculture versus pasture-raised?

Minute 19:00: Locally Laid rotates its birds--how and why? Move fences and the birds denude each section of pasture before they move on, and then you have to let the land rest. That differs from free range because free range does not guarantee them access to grass, just a view of it.

Minute 21:30: Certified humane is another standard that farms can get certified on, which may be a hybrid between free range and pasture-raised eggs. One challenge that Locally Laid faced is that pasture-raised is not a legal term, because it’s different in every environment and climate.

Minute 23:20: Jason describes the steps they had to take to get approved by the state of Minnesota (and USDA) to call their eggs pasture-raised.

Minute 24:00: The environmental issues associated with industrial egg laying extends to the human workers, the quality of life for the birds breathing in heavy ammonia from the waste, and then the disposal of manure sustainably near waterways. This is similar to issues faced by beef concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Minute 25:00: The manure needs to rest before it can be used as fertilizer on food crops. Large volumes near waterways can be devastating to aquatic life and stability because it contains too much nitrogen, and can kill off aquatic species.  This is also a big issue for corn and soybean farmers who apply alot of fertilizer which runs off into the waterways, and is one of the causes of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Minute 29:00: Right now, the market values cheap protein without regard to where it comes from.

Minute 29:30: Jason explains how this all started with a backyard chicken coup, and many things in life convened to prompt them to start their own egg farm and work for themselves, including a steep learning curve on agriculture and business.

Minute 31:24: Jason explains why he chose chicken farming over all other businesses, and how there are three types of businesses- low, medium, and high barriers to entry. He wanted to get into a business that was not easy to replicate.

Minute 32:30: How growing up in cities can minimize our need to develop handy skills and how Jason’s desire to build a business around hard skills.

Minute 33:30: Farming is so hard! But many people have an idealistic perception of the romance of farming. We don’t have a good sense of the hard work that goes into creating our food.

Minute 35:15: Jason tells about his background growing up in Edina, Minnesota, he served in the military, worked as a grant writer, lived in northern Minnesota.

Minute 37:36: Jason’s passion for entrepreneurship is centered on creating a business that is unique and not easily replicable. Starting a business requires covering overhead and understanding expenses.

Minute 38:56: Jason explains some of the challenges with starting his company, especially the financing. They had to make many major sacrifices, even with signing away rights to their home, all to get the business off the ground.

Minute 39:50:  Financial projections can be very wrong, because uncertainty is the definition of entrepreneurship.

Minute 40:55: Jason describes some of the big challenges in the first year of chicken farming, like when the first shipment of birds were sent on a very unseasonably hot day in Minnesota and got stuck in traffic, as well as when the hens started piling on top of each other in the corner of the roost because they had poultry hysteria--they had never seen the sun before!

Minute 43:00: Jason describes how difficult it was to find someone to sell them a large number of hens, partially because Locally Laid requires salmonella vaccinations, a step that is not required by the state of Minnesota. Plus, 500-3000 birds is not a large enough number to entice a seller since many commercial operations are so much bigger- 30,000 birds.

Minute 44:17: Another challenge was lack of infrastructure and they didnt live on the farm, so it was hard to get off the ground. They had to start with pullets, which are hens at 17 weeks of age. Hens will start laying eggs at 20 weeks.

Minute 45:00: If this is so hard, how do we scale this? How has Locally Laid scaled their operations beyond their farm?  Locally Laid works with Amish farms who produce eggs and sells their eggs under their label, so they address a marketing issue for the Amish farms.

Minute 46:00: One challenge to scale is that eggs are perishable and if you are wrong on the quantity needed, you run into issues. If you are short eggs and can’t supply the demand, it hurts the farm’s ability to keep that spot on the grocery shelf because they lose faith that you will keep them stocked. But if you’re long in eggs, then you can’t sell them fast enough and have to donate them to a food bank or they get thrown in the grass.

Minute 47:00: They also put a 400-mile geographic limit on their eggs, which further challenges the ability to scale.

Minute 47:20: Jason explains the history of the name of their farm “Locally Laid” and some of the comical results of the name.  A few folks have been offended by the name, including some grocery store chains who won’t carry the brand because of the name. However, the witty name has earned them alot of loyal supporters who appreciate their efforts to distinguish themselves.

Minute 50:28: Lucie and Jason manage the distribution of the eggs and all of the complications with that.

Minute 51:20: Jason describes the three legs of the stool- producing the product, bundling and packaging, and the marketing of that product.  Now they are going into a berry venture, and they’ve learned how to package and market the product. Now they just need to learn how to grow it! Most farmers know how to grow, but not how to package or market.

Minute 52:30: Let’s talk about pricing. Why is pasture-raised more expensive than cage-free or free-range?  It’s totally retail-dependent. It’s driven by gross profit = margin x volume. The price depends on how much a distributor is charging, whether Locally Laid directly sells and invoices to the store, and where the retailer sees themselves in comparison to their competition.  SuperOne carries their eggs, and they do a great job of pricing. Some Chicago retailers get frustrated the eggs don’t sell because they put such a high margin on the eggs, and then get mad when they don’t sell, but they are making three times as much money as Locally Laid is. So the grocer pricing them so much higher and focusing just on margin instead of gross profit makes them harder to sell Locally Laid eggs because they are creating a disincentive for customers than they actually are, even when you account for the additional risk Locally Laid is taking on in growing pasture-raised eggs.  Grocers like to portray these are significantly more expensive.

Minute 55:45: How does organic versus non-organic affect price? Much of the organic feed in the US comes from China or India. It’s important to Locally Laid to source locally, and their feed comes from a few miles away or less.  Organic feed varies wildly in pricing, and they need consistent inputs to charge the same amount for their eggs. Another challenge is the way organic feed is shipped- in 50 lb bags. Their eggs retail for $4.30-4.50 a dozen. Most organic pasture-raised eggs retail at about $6-7 a dozen, which starts to price out some consumers and only be available for high-end consumers.  Locally Laid is trying to strike a balance in sustainable agriculture-- if you ship feed from far away, that becomes really fuel-intensive.

It is important to them to source non-GMO corn, which they are able to do.  The rest of the diet comes from the grass!

Minute 59:11: Jason tells us how we can support Locally Laid and follow their activities.  Buy the book--Locally Laid, published by Penguin, which is quite comical and also brutally honest about the realities of building a farm--”farm contraception” as Jason describes it. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

Minute 59:55: Jason’s crazy idea for positive environmental change--renewable energy on America’s waterways, with none of the consistency issues with wind and solar.

Minute 1:01:20: Jason’s provides a book recommendation -- Thomas Friedman, Thank You for Being Late.

Minute 1:02:25: Habit change- buy your eggs locally, either at your grocery store from Locally Laid or another local farm, or you can buy eggs from a local CSA (community-supported agriculture)! Start thinking about where your food comes from, or even your wine or beer!

Erin DelawallaComment