TANBA, Hyogo -- After a half-hour drive on mountain roads, the landscape opens up. Seven chicken coops of varying sizes stand on 13,000 square meters of land with the Takeda River running right by them. It is in these mountains of Tanba, also famous for its fireflies, that the eggs of Kannan Farm are produced.
The company's president, Kazuo Kannan, 84, began trying to produce eggs that tasted like the eggs of his childhood 40-plus years ago.
His father had been an egg wholesaler. "When I was a child, before World War II, eggs were a treat. Egg whites were clear, and the yolks were firm, with a rich flavor," Kannan says. "At some point, such eggs disappeared."
Working a day job at a different company, Kannan began keeping several dozen chickens. But by the time he was 40 or so, he'd switched to poultry farming full time. He tested floor-rearing, free range, and fertile eggs, but none resulted in the type of egg he was seeking. He'd been getting his bird feed from a specialized feed business, but the feed was far from the aromatic feed he remembered smelling as a child.
"It took me a while to realize that it was the feed that dictates how an egg will turn out," he says.
Kannan became very particular about what he fed his chickens, making feed with ingredients edible to humans as well. His mixture of about 20 ingredients includes 70 percent non-GMO whole corn kernels, 10 percent powdered fish from fish caught in the waters off Hokkaido, rice bran, and locally grown raw garlic pickled in salt -- believed to promote vitamin absorption. He grinds the corn kernels everyday using a special grinder to make sure none of them are oxidized or contaminated with bacteria. It's a homemade mixture that Kannan came up with himself after much trial and error.
Around 20 years ago, Kannan's son, Yoshinori, joined him in making "delicious and safe" eggs. Both the whites and the yolks of the eggs produced by their chickens have a certain elasticity, and the "whites" are actually clear and colorless. The yolk can be pinched and held up with one's fingers, and doesn't fall apart when a toothpick is inserted through it. Kannan says this is evidence that the eggs are filled with high-quality, high-nutrition protein.
I tried one of their eggs the way Kannan recommends that they be eaten: I cracked a raw egg onto a bowl of hot rice, eating the whites and yolk separately. The whites have a gelatinous consistency, with a very modest sweetness to it. The yolk has a rich but clean flavor, with its umami and body spreading throughout my mouth even after the yolk is gone. As I mixed the egg whites and yolk with the rice, eating small mouthfuls, I started feeling warm and cozy inside.
Yoshinori Kannan, who had always said, "Let's make eggs that make everyone smile and be happy!" suddenly passed away in February at age 51. The sadness of his passing will never go away. Kannan's family wondered whether they could continue the egg farming business without Yoshinori. But encouraged by customers who pleaded with the family to continue producing eggs that allowed them to feel their dedication, Kazuo Kannan, along with his daughter and granddaughter, are on their way to a fresh start, with the hope of bringing smiles to people's faces through their eggs. (By Setsuko Ogawa, Lifestyle News Department)
Kannan Farm's eggs, "Yamabuki," are available by pre-order, starting at 40 eggs for 3,000 yen. Contact the farm by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 0795-75-0933 (In Japanese only).