Have you hugged a chicken today?

Here’s a news story that will make you feel like hugging your backyard chickens.

Quality Egg LLC, Iowa City, Iowa, once one of the nation's largest egg producers, has agreed to pay $6.8 million in fines for selling old eggs with false labels, bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, and also for selling tainted products that caused a nationwide salmonella outbreak in 2010.

Now, we don’t assume that everyone who runs a factory farm or a mass production food company is a bad egg. But isn’t it nice to know where at least some of your food comes from? You know when that egg was laid. You don’t have to depend on an inspector or a label to tell you. You know what your hens eat and how they are kept.

That’s also why we are fortunate to have so many local farmers’ markets and CSAs. We can’t personally inspect every farm, but we can meet and talk to the people who are producing the food we eat, and that’s almost as good as being there. We also should remember that not everyone has the opportunity to get that close to their food sources. That’s another reason to support our local producers.

So when you come into CLUCK the Chicken Store, take a minute to say hi to our hens in the coop-yard who are busy producing fresh-fresh eggs. And don’t forget to pick up your free copy of the Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas from REAP Food Group. It's your directory of CSAs, farmers’ markets, restaurants and food sellers who provide great-tasting food grown close to home!

Also, just a word of caution. If you do hug your chickens, be sure to wash your hands afterward.