Lantham Latta started an egg farm just after World War II. It was located on Highway 57 north of Hillsborough until 1990, when it moved a short distance to a peaceful setting just off the highway. The farm has grown to produce 30,000 eggs daily, 12,000 of which are the cage-free brown eggs that Weaver Street Market sells and uses in its baking. The farm is now run by Lantham’s sons, Mark, Paul, and Frank, and his grandsons, Ray and Gardner.
The hens live in long, tin-roofed henhouses; a few peered out from chicken-wire windows, left open on the sunny day of our visit. Frank opened the door to the house slowly, so as not to scare the hens, but by the time the door was open, every eye in the place was on us. A double row of metal nesting boxes runs the length of the henhouse. Most of the hens lay between 8 and 11 am and then return to the floor, where they mill around or eat at food stations. They sleep on the floor.
Eggs from the cage-free hens are hand-gathered and placed onto the conveyor belt in the processing room, where a huge metal contraption helps the men sort, size, and box the eggs. The conveyor belt first takes the eggs through a washer and drier; they pass under a black curtain where someone checks for cracks with the help of a glowing orange light and an overhead mirror; then lines of eggs proceed onto rods with egg-holding notches. This is the size sorter: each rod zooms into the air, lifting a row of six eggs, and alights at the top of a ramp, where the largest eggs are able to roll off; the rod then makes stops at other ramps, where it deposits semi-large. medium, and small eggs. Once the eggs are off the sorter, more conveyor belts carry them, wobbling, down chutes and up ramps to their ultimate destination: the egg carton. Six grabbers lift the eggs and place them into cartons, which are checked by a person before closing.
Look for Latta eggs in all our stores.