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Home & Garden, La Deliziosa Vita

The glory of backyard chickens and the world’s best deviled eggs

Jason’s chickens foraging in his backyard.

I’ve been writing in The Marina Times and talking on the radio for years about the many reasons to buy pasture-raised eggs — not “cage free,” which means only that each bird gets 1-to-2 square feet of space and don’t necessarily have access to the outdoors. Of course, cage free is better than battery-raised, where several chickens are kept in cages piled atop each other in warehouses the length of several football fields. While cage-free hens are able to walk a bit, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests, battery hens spend their entire lives like New Yorkers on a subway train in a space the size of a letter-sized sheet of paper. They can’t flap their wings or roost, and because of the unnatural setting, they turn on each other, causing factory farmers to snip off their beaks.

Battery cages are used by 90 percent of egg producers in America, which means those “buy one get one free” cartons of eggs at supermarkets are cheap but the method used to raise the chickens is cruel. That’s the main reason I buy pasture-raised eggs, which are laid by chickens allowed to forage in grassy green fields. Even at farmers’ markets, it’s important to ask whether the chickens are “pastured” because sometimes they’re not. In markets, I look for “Certified Humane,” which requires that pastured birds gets more than 100 square feet of outdoor space year-round, can forage for bugs and other favorite treats, and have protection from predators and inclement weather.

Besides producing a clear conscience, pasture-raised eggs taste better. You’ll find orange-hued yolks with rich, grassy notes and firm but tender, creamy whites. They’re also better for your health, with one third less cholesterol, one fourth less saturated fat, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, and more vitamin A, E, and D.

Even better than buying pasture-raised eggs is raising your own through the glory of backyard chickens. I split my time between San Jose and San Francisco, and many of our neighbors in San Jose keep chickens. One of my friends, Jason, says he and his wife got chickens as pets for their kids and “because his wife is an animal nut like me.” Though they enjoy the chickens, they’re not big egg fans, so I luck out with a dozen fresh eggs delivered to my door each week. Without a doubt, they’re the best-tasting eggs I’ve ever had.

Lest you think city dwellers can’t have chickens, it is legal in San Francisco to keep up to four. “People can have four pets, and three of any one species,” says Deb Campbell of San Francisco Animal Care and Control. “So, for instance, you could have a dog and three chickens.” Campbell also says that chickens are available for adoption at most shelters, including San Francisco’s (1200 15th Street at Harrison Street, 415-554-6364,

[email protected], sfgov.org/acc). They screen potential adoptive homes carefully and there’s a fee of $20 per chicken.

In the spring, when chickens are producing at their maximum, I like to make deviled eggs. I’ve run several recipes in the past for more exotic varieties, including smoked salmon and candied bacon deviled eggs, but my go-to deviled eggs are the ones my stepmother, Kickie, dubbed “the best deviled eggs in the world.” These are smooth, creamy, no-nonsense deviled eggs, tending toward the classic version with a few twists. The ingredient measurements are a starting point — taste as you go, and add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like.

If you’re one of those people who fears peeling eggs, watch my easy-to-follow video of tips and tricks. By the way, the myth about older eggs being easier to peel than fresher eggs is just that: a myth. I regularly peel Jason’s eggs, gathered the day before, without any problem..

World’s Best Deviled Eggs
(serves 2-3)

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 heaping tablespoons mayonaisse
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha, gochujang, or other chili sauce
  • ⅛ teaspon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice (preferably Meyer)
  • 1 teaspoon ponzu (citrus soy) or regular soy sauce (preferably low sodium)
  • ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
  • Paprika for garnish (plain, smoked, or spicy, depending on preference)

Slice hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise and gently scoop yolks into a medium bowl. Place whites on a deviled egg tray.

Using a fork, mash the yolks until smooth. Add the mayonaisse and whip until combined. Add remaining ingredients (except for paprika) and whisk until combined.

Using a teaspoon, scoop an even mound of yolk mixture into each white, sprinkle with a generous amount of paprika, and serve.

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