Belinda and David Gutierrez manage Local Yolk, a pasture-raised laying hen operation, at Pilot Creek Ranch, a 970-acre property in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Belinda and David returned to the ranch, which has been in David’s family since the late 1800s, in 2006 and began raising laying hens on the family’s property in 2013. They raise 500 AWA-certified Black Austrolorp ,Ameraucana, and Rhode Island Red laying hens outdoors on pasture.
“A lot of people claim they’re pasture-raising their animals and it can mean a lot of things,” explains Belinda. “When it comes to pasture-based farming, AWA are the only independent third party folks who know what they’re talking about. AWA certification let’s potential customers know that we’ve been audited by an independent third party, and that really helps bring back ‘the pasture-raised’ movement.” AWA certification verifies that Local Yolk’s laying hens are not raised in cages or barns; they roam freely on pasture where the birds are able to peck and scratch and dust bathe, and are only indoors when they are laying, perching, or sleeping in their mobile trailer.
Every few days, Belinda and David rotate each flock to a new one-acre paddock to ensure the birds always have access to fresh grasses, seeds, plants, bugs and worms. The property is also leased to a local rancher, so the land gets the benefit of rotation with cattle and the family’s goats as well, each species using the pastures differently and leaving behind their manure to fertilize and improve the soil. Rotation also prevents over-grazing and soil erosion while decreasing invasive weed species on the ranch.
The pesticide-, herbicide- and chemical-free pastures at Pilot Creek Ranch form an important part of Local Yolk chickens’ diets, but this is supplemented with a certified organic, soy-free and non-GMO feed and clean water. In addition, the chickens are never given antibiotics or other routine medications. Belinda and David believe that their high-welfare, pasture-based management practices and attention to high-quality food results in what they call “EGG-ceptional quality! Our eggs look, taste, and feel better! Our yolks are richer in color, the whites are firmer, and the shells are stronger,” Belinda explains. Scientific research also shows that pasture-raised eggs contain three times as much vitamin E, seven times more beta-carotene, and twice the amount of omega 3 fatty acids as industrial eggs.
Local Yolk’s pasture-raised eggs are available at retail locations in Placer, El Dorado, Sacramento, and San Francisco counties, or direct from the ranch by appointment only. To find a location near you, visit AWA’s Online Directory. To learn more about Local Yolk, visit www.LocalYolkEggs.com or contact the Gutierrezes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 392-8044.