Thursday, September 10, 2009

City food scraps feed country chickens in a new sustainability initiative

City dwellers can now use their food scraps to support local egg production at Steep Hollow Farm, just three miles outside city limits, between Buttermilk and Treman State Parks.

In this one-of-a-kind program, City of Ithaca residents can gather their food scraps in a bin provided by the program.  Then, project managers Christianne White and Thomas Shelley collect bins regularly and compost the food scraps at Steep Hollow Farm.  As the scraps decay, 95 free-range laying hens forage on the insects and other decomposers within the compost. 

The Steep Hollow Sustainable Chicken Project aims to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by limiting the use of commercial grain feed. Instead, compost from household food scraps attracts insects, worms, and other critters as chicken feed.

The eggs produced at Steep Hollow Farm are very different from conventional grocery store eggs, according to White. “We’ve been getting eggs to people the day after they are laid,” she says. The result is an egg that “sits up." In contrast, conventional eggs can be as old as 6 or 7 weeks and tend to have thin whites because proteins change in character as they age.

“Our chickens live in a house on runners, which is moved every 2 weeks so they can forage in new territory, and they love to eat grass and just about everything else,” White says.  This varied diet makes the yolks very deep yellow.  In conventional egg production, chickens eat feed that has filler and additives, such as arsenic, which is considered a growth-enhancer

Shelley and White started the project because Shelley was looking for a farm to compost table scraps from city residents who were unwilling or unable to compost and White wanted more organic inputs for her farm.  “It seemed like a win/win situation,” says White. Currently, about 15 people are signed up, but they hope to attract 40.

Participants pay $35 per year for the food scrap collection service, receive occasional eggs as a “thank you,” and can purchase additional eggs for $3.50 per dozen. For more information, contact: Thomas Shelley at or 342-0864.


1 comment:

  1. We've tried these eggs - they truly are wonderful! The yolk sits really tall in the pan and the whites have great integrity. They're beautiful. What a great idea to contribute compost to the farm!