Retired egg master John Stahl of the Tschetter Hutterite colony near Irricana confesses he still misses the egg business.
The 10-time Alberta Egg Show winner, Stahl, now an octogenarian, was forced to retire about five years ago due to ongoing hip issues.
“I loved my business very much,” Stahl recently told the Rocky View Weekly, “and I always had friendly customers who were always nice to me.”
Stahl said the key to producing high-quality eggs was cleanliness in the chicken barns, ensuring proper health and nutrition for his birds, and a calm demeanour at all times around his nesting hens.
“I had a feeling (for good eggs),” he said. “It was the size (off the eggs), and when I looked at the chickens, they were nice and healthy. I had them calmed down, and I took my time working with the chickens.”
When he was still working, Stahl would often clean his barn out three times a day and do daily quality control checks to ensure he was producing only the best eggs. He said he had a trick he used to do with a flashlight in the dark, which made the eggs nearly translucent so he could ensure the ones he picked out for competitions were absolute perfection.
“They had to be nice and clear (shells) with a good shape,” Stahl explained with unbridled enthusiasm, despite being three years out of the egg business.
According to Stahl, a little bit of showmanship when presenting to the judges went a long way back in his competition days.
“I would have a blue, purple or black tray to really show off the eggs nice,” he said.
Despite working daily with his chickens for many hours a day, Stahl was also responsible for finding customers for his colony’s eggs in Calgary and elsewhere. He would deliver the eggs personally to restaurants and grocery stores all over the region on a weekly basis.
Stahl misses working with his chickens, but he also misses the customer service aspect of the egg business.
“I loved my work,” he explained. “Going into Calgary with the eggs on Mondays, I took a lot of eggs in, and I always came home [empty-handed].”
Altogether, Stahl worked nearly six decades as an egg man in the Rocky View County region. He confesses he would still be doing it today if his body were able.
“As the years went by, that is what I was doing,” he recalled. “I was always practicing (to produce better eggs). After I won the first (Alberta Egg Show in 1994), when I came home, I worked even harder and practiced more.
My wife would ask me why I was spending so much time in the chicken barn when I had a family at home [but] I loved it.”