Cowart Ranch, Pastured Poultry in Sumterville, Fla.
I'll eat eggs if there is nothing else to eat but I rather not. They are slimy, smelly sources of protein reminding me more of brimstone than food. But this year my mind got changed by some eggs from Cowart Ranch, a pastured-poultry farm in Central Florida. I was on a tour, in January, with 40 or so people from Agritunity, an event put on every year by Sumter County Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to raise awareness of local farms and ranches in the central Florida region.
Cowart Ranch was the last stop on a multi-stop tour. As we drove up hundreds of chickens ran to greet us. We learned later that there were 1000 birds on the 1500-acre farm, roosting in two solar powered, mobile, chicken coops (converted Miami-Dade classrooms). The coops got moved every two to three days giving the chickens, new open spaces of grass and bugs to eat along with their commercial feed.
Jake and Danny Cowart, the ranch owners, were our hosts. They said the commercial feed was free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Jake said the grass acted like a natural form of antibiotics and gave the eggs a unique flavor. A uniquely delicious flavor, in my opinion, sort of like butter added to them, yum.
The ranch also raises meat birds, and grass-fed beef. They will be moving and expanding their poultry operation into a new 50-acre property with 450 more hens. Currently eggs can be purchased directly on the Cowart Ranch by the honor system. There is a lock box upfront (with posted prices), to put money in and a freezer and a walk-in cooler in the back to pick up eggs and frozen meat birds. Or the eggs/chickens can be purchased through Florida Fresh Meat Company.