on the job The twelve books of agricultureIn the 16th century, the humanist Gabriel Alonso de Herrera already offered advice on raising chickens at home. However, in Spain, poultry farming was for centuries an activity linked to self-consumption in rural areas. That is why it was necessary to wait until the 20th century for, with the advent of industrial livestock, the Spaniards to eat eggs en masse. Once taken this path, there was no one to separate them from the destiny of the nation.
In Spain, the census of laying hens exceeds 40 million. These generate more than 1,000 million dozen eggs a year, which makes the country one of the main egg producers in the European Union, according to the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food. In recent years, more and more companies prefer quality over quantity, which translates into chickens that roam freely through their pens and products that respect nature’s time. Also at slightly higher prices.
These four brands pamper the production process to the extreme and sell dozens of eggs that are really worth eating, no matter how many people think that they are all the same and that, after all, an egg is an egg. Believe us: when it comes to eggs, not everything is written, although we have been writing about them since the 16th century.
The owner of the Galo Celta company, David Sueiro, produces eggs on his farm that have made chefs like Martín Berasategui or Pepe Solla fall in love. That alone allows him to ensure that he sells the most expensive egg in the world. If they are not, they should not be far: a single old chicken egg of this brand costs up to two euros. More than fifteen years ago he started his business on a small farm in Vila de Cruces, in Pontevedra. He did it a bit by accident. In the business they sold poultry meat, as there were free range roosters, but one day chef Berasategui asked them for a few eggs. They sent them to him, he liked them and they remained forever as one of the characteristic dishes of his kitchen. Today, they continue to collaborate with his restaurant located in the town of Lasarte-Oria.
These eggs have become famous because the hens that lay them only eat a type of feed that has a special formula, based on corn and developed by the same company. In addition, they have a calculated environmental footprint certificate, which is an indicator of the impact that their production generates on their environment. Now, they have two production centers in Castilla La Mancha and Galicia. “In our production system we have always put quality before profitability. Our only intention from the beginning was to make a good product, as our ancestors did”, affirms Sueiro.
All with the guarantee of being an artisan, exclusive, luxurious and respectful product with tradition. In Galo Celta they sell two types of eggs: from young and old chickens. Each one has very different characteristics; for example, eggs from younger hens have more protein and consistency. However, the eggs of the older ones are creamier, they have more good fats (omega-3 and 6). And its yolk is bigger. They are available at the Gourmet Club of El Corte Inglés.
Curro Ulzurrun has created a project of eggs from native chickens in the wild, -he hates the term, so hackneyed, happy chickens- that have become the most desired in Madrid. Cowards and Chickens works like Netflix: in exchange for a monthly subscription, one ensures the arrival at home of what many think are the best eggs in the capital. Right now they have a queue of 500 people hoping to be part of such a select club at some point.
Cowards and Gallinas has more than 1,000 members who have been subscribing since 2019. Two dozen eggs each month cost 17 euros, and are distributed throughout the Peninsula. A secret: if you are not one of those who can wait to try them, your eggs can also be bought in gourmet stores in Madrid such as the El Corte Inglés Gourmet Club.
For Ulzurrun the secret is in the food. “An egg is what the chicken eats, that’s why its diet is so important,” he says. For this reason, to feed them they have also prepared their own feed. The secret of his formula is in the paprika from La Vega and the flax they use, confesses one of the owners of Cobardes y Gallinas. “The best eggs come from hens with a very good quality of life”, he assures. That is why the system they have is based on having small farms of only 1,200 birds in each one.
Although it is very difficult to distinguish a good egg, the intense color of the yolk and its density are some characteristics that separate the quality egg from the vulgar. Another feature of Cowards and Chickens eggs is that in each box it is possible to find eggs of different colors. “We put eggs of various breeds in each box, which is why some may be white, blue or red,” explains Ulzurrun, who describes a meal with his eggs as an explosion of flavor when the bread touches a yolk produced by them.
César Redondo is the owner and manager of Granjas Redondo. The farm, located in the Sierra de Gredos, has always been in the family since 1956, but it was not until 1996 when Redondo and his brother got involved in the family business, starting to produce eggs taking into account the well-being of the environment and their animals. His eggs became famous because they are the ones that King Emeritus Juan Carlos I likes to eat whenever he can.
On their farm they have 1,200 chickens and work with other associated organic farms around. The farm produces all kinds of eggs: free range, ground, cage and organic. Their hens’ diet is based on natural feed made from soybeans, corn, barley and even dyes: those used for the yolks come from the Marigol flower, imported from Mexico. For Redondo, a good egg has to be very centered when it opens. For him, the quality of the egg can be measured in the thickness of the white. “It has to be thick, you can’t spread it all over the pan,” he explains.
His equipment has the capacity to produce more than 20,000 eggs every hour. And in their facilities they collect 200,000 eggs every day, according to their website. “We sell everything we produce,” says Redondo. The average weight of their eggs is 70 grams. Granjas Redondo was a pioneer in Spain in setting up chalets for free-range hens. This allowed the construction of small wooden houses where the birds sleep after walking all day. “The care of the chickens is very important, we are aware that the quality of the eggs that reach the market depends on it,” he says.
Nuria Varela-Portas is filled with pride when talking about her chickens. For her, her business does not consist in producing eggs, but in taking care of chickens, she explains. “We were the first in Spain to produce free-range eggs from chickens that live in complete freedom,” she says. Today they even have their own animal welfare department, where they are always thinking of new projects to better care for the chickens.
Portas recalls that years ago there was not even a regulation that defined the different types of breeding, so at the Pazo de Vilane farm they simply limited themselves to explaining to everyone who asked that their chickens ran free. His farm was born as a family initiative in Lugo that sought to resume the activity of the pazo to restore its activity, rehabilitate its historical heritage and help the community.
“There was a latent demand, and it was a very interesting product because they saw how the farms that had free-range chickens in France worked,” he says. Now, the market has changed and the egg sector has very competitive prices. They started with 50 chickens and now they have 16 farms and a staff of 48 people. In your company they have always wanted to differentiate themselves in the market by having a real field chicken egg. His chickens feed on everything that the land and its pastures provide. In addition, they take advantage of cereals, legumes and all the nutrients there are: even the small worms that live in the soil of the field serve to improve the quality of production.
For Varela-Portas, the quality of an egg can be seen in that it is clean, fresh, without cracks: “When companies are very large, care and quality are lost.” Their eggs can be found in all supermarkets, and half a dozen costs 3.50 euros.