Thursday, May 1, 2008

Local Foods Memo: Never A Grocer to Have its Head in the Sand, Waitrose is Selling Locally-Produced Ostrich Eggs at its UK Supermarkets

Nobody can accuse the United Kingdom's Waitrose supermarket chain of having its head in the sand when it comes to local foods retailing.

The upscale British grocery chain, purveyor of fancy, natural and local foods, is now the exclusive seller in the UK of Clarence Court Ostrich eggs, which are produced locally by UK flocks. As pictured at top, the ostrich eggs come in an attractive pink box with a tote handle, which no doubt is needed as the huge eggs have some weight to them.

The huge, local ostrich eggs weigh 2kg, and are nearly equivalent to two-dozen large hen eggs. The massive ostrich eggs also take nearly two hours to hard boil.

For those who've never tasted an ostrich egg, the Clarence Court folks describe the eggs as having a distinctive yet light flavor and texture. They also say the eggs are ideal for a myriad of cooking uses.

One ostrich eggs goes a long way: Clarence Court says you can make about 100 meringues or 32 souffles with one of the 2kg giants.

The ostrich eggs are laid by special ostriches called South African Blacks, which the egg-producer describes as inquisitive and majestic birds. The big birds lay the eggs four or five hours before dusk to protect them from the heat of the sun, just like they do in the wild. The ostriches are raised free-range at the Clarence Court farm.

Ostrich egg shells are very thick. Many people drain the egg with just a pin prick at each end so that they can then decorate the large egg after it is used.

Waitrose's corporate egg buyer, Frances Westerman calls the Clarence Court Ostrich eggs a "real show stopper in terms of both looks and taste."

Ms. Westerman says Waitrose's customers love experimenting with new food ideas. "We've seen growing popularity of duck, pheasant and goose eggs, now it's the turn of the ostrich to take off," she says.

The locally-produced ostrich eggs, which are a seasonal product, will only be available in Waitrose's stores from now until August, 2008.

The UK's Clarence Court is a producer of specialty eggs of all kinds, ranging from the seasonal ostrich eggs to others including: Old Cotswald Legbar pastel eggs, Mabel Pearman's Burford Brons, Free-to-Fly Quails' Eggs, Gladys May's Burdock Whites, and additional seasonal specialty eggs like pheasant and goose eggs. You can view Clarence Court's egg range here.

All of Clarence Court's eggs are produced free-range, and are fed a primarily cereal-based diet, along with some maize.

The specialty egg-producer also has its own 10-point ethical guide to raising its eggs, which you can view here.

Clarence Court is considered a heritage egg producer in that today it still produces egg varieties that go back thousands of years in the UK.

The egg-producer also has high quality standards, along with its ethical and humane hen-treatment policy. Read more here.

In fact, Clarence Court is so proud of the way it treats its egg-laying hens, it's set up its own real time "Hen Cam" on its website, where you can watch the hens' roam the green free-range pastures at the farm.

You can view the royal birds at Clarence Court's farm on the "Hen Cam" here.

Clarence Court's heritage eggs are gaining quite an impressive following among the UK's food royalty these days. For example, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver uses Clarence Court's eggs at his "Fifteen" (the name not the quantity) restaurants, as does that top UK chef Gordon Ramsey.

As a way to market and promote the specialty eggs, such as those sold at Waitrose, the egg-producer has teamed-up with British chef and food writer Mark Hix, who has developed numerous recipes for Clarence Court's heritage eggs. You can view those recipes here.

Meanwhile, Waitrose's egg buyer Francis Westerman, who's head is never in the sand but rather always is looking for the next new thing in the egg world, might just have another locally-produced egg innovation on Waitrose's shelves soon. After all, the ostrich eggs are only available until August.

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