Eggs have long represented the arrival of spring. Since antiquity, the perfect little ovals have symbolized renewal and rebirth, growth and fertility. They carry the promise of new life, new ideas, and new beginnings along with the possibility of prosperity and opportunity.
They also make up one of Washington state’s top 10 commodities, raking in nearly $460 million annually, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s 2023 Washington Annual Statistical Bulletin. The same report notes Washington’s 6.5 million egg-laying hens produce more than 2 billion eggs per year—and they have since 2015.
That information “makes me feel good about the future of egg farming in this state,” says Sara Stiebrs (x’02 Int. Des.), chief operating officer at Stiebrs Farms in Yelm. “Americans love eggs.”
In fact, the average American ate about 280 eggs, or about 23 dozen eggs, in 2022, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which reports per capita egg consumption has increased 8 percent since 2000.
“I never get tired of eggs,” Sara says. “I love eggs. They are such a huge part of our lives. They’re our livelihood. Sometimes, our family will eat up to three dozen eggs a week.”
Sara owns the egg farm with her husband, Yany, a third-generation egg farmer whose grandparents started the business 70 years ago. Jan and Zelma Stiebrs came to Washington state from their native Latvia in 1949. In 1953, with 100 hens, they started selling eggs door-to-door to neighbors and friends. Jan and Zelma retired in 1978, the same year Yany’s parents, Dianna and the late Janis Stiebrs, married and began running the farm. Dianna Stiebrs remains chief financial officer. Yany is chief executive officer.
Sara and Yany wed in 2006. She joined the family business four years later. Today, she leads the farm’s animal welfare and food safety compliance. “Growing up on a small cattle farm myself, I understand how much goes into running a farm, and it was important for me to jump in and help,” Sara says. “I never thought I would end up here. But I am really proud to be an egg farmer. Egg farming is one of the hardest jobs you can ever do. Those hens need to be cared for 24/7. We’re on call all the time.
“I take pride in what our family does to feed families across the Pacific Northwest.”
Stiebrs Farms employs about 100 people and has three locations, 65 barns, and about 350,000 hens. It has long specialized in cage-free, cage-free organic, and pasture-raised eggs. Cage-free eggs are now required by law in Washington state. Legislation signed by Governor Jay Inslee in 2019 banned the sale and production of caged eggs—regardless of where they were produced—by the end of 2023. The law also requires more space per bird as well as enrichments, such as scratch areas, nesting and dust-bathing areas, and perches. Other states are adopting similar laws. Nearly 39 percent of all commercial egg-laying hens in America, or just over 125 million, were cage-free in 2022, up from almost 25 percent in 2020 and 17 percent in 2017, according to the USDA.
More than half of all eggs produced in the United States are sold in their shells at retail outlets and consumed domestically. Stiebrs Farms supplies eggs to community food co-ops throughout the region. Eggs from Stiebrs Farms are also sold by New Seasons Market, Town and Country Markets, PCC Community Markets, Smith Brothers Farms, and many other stores and restaurants in the Seattle and Portland, Oregon, areas.
The 2022 avian flu outbreak, along with increased operational costs such as labor, feed, and fuel for transportation, temporarily drove up egg prices earlier this year, in some states as much as triple. Still, eggs remain a relatively inexpensive way for people to meet their daily dietary needs. Eggs offer high-quality protein, complete with all nine of the essential amino acids. A large egg contains just over 6 grams—3.6 in the egg white and 2.7 in the yolk.
Eggs are also an excellent source of vitamin B12, biotin, iodine, selenium, and choline, and are a good source of riboflavin and pantothenic acid. Perhaps the best part: a large egg has fewer than 80 calories.
From creamy custards and ice creams, to classic breakfast and brunch dishes, eggs provide the building block to myriad sweet or savory dishes. In baking, they make a perfect binder—for cakes and chocolate chip cookies, soft rich dough in cinnamon rolls, and brushed glazes that help adhere turbinado or demerara sugar to treats. Whip the whites into a fluffy meringue for a classic lemon pie or crispy French macarons. Add a jammy boiled egg to a rich broth with noodles and vegetables.
“I keep hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator at all times,” says Sara. She and Yany are raising their 12-year-old twin boys, Cohen and Hayden, perhaps future fourth-generation egg farmers.
Sara uses eggs for holiday baking, quick hashes and breakfasts-for-dinner, her beloved Christmas quiche, Latvian piragi—the recipe comes from Yany’s grandmother—and more.
“I love the versatility of eggs,” she says. “They are such important staples. They are wholesome and nutritious—nature’s perfect protein. They are just everything you could ever want in this perfect little package.”
Sara’s breakfast quiche
From Sara Stiebrs (x’02)
A favorite at the Stiebrs household on Christmas morning, this 18-egg quiche features a hashbrown crust stuffed with bacon, green onion, cheese, and spinach. Sour cream and hot sauce make for quick and easy toppings. Sara uses eggs from the family egg farm, Stiebrs Farms. And, she notes, “it’s really filling.”
For the crust
2 pounds of frozen hashbrowns, thawed
1 stick butter, melted
For the filling
18 large eggs
¾ cup of heavy whipping cream
1 12-ounce package of bacon, chopped, cooked until semi-crispy, and well drained
1 cup chopped green onion
3 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 package of frozen spinach, thawed and all moisture squeezed out
Salt and pepper
Sour cream, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving
Make the crust
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine hashbrowns and melted butter in a large bowl and mix well. Pour mixture into a 4-quart Pyrex baking dish.
Gently press down hashbrown mixture with a fork, working the hashbrowns evenly on the bottom of the dish, then up the sides to form a pie-like crust.
Place hashbrown-lined dish in 350-degree oven and bake for 20 minutes.
While crust is baking, prepare the filling.
Prepare the filling
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and heavy whipping cream. Add the bacon, green onion, cheese, and spinach to the egg mixture. Mix well with a whisk, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
After 20 minutes of bake time, pull the hashbrown-lined dish out of the oven. Pour the egg mixture over the hashbrown crust, filling the dish. Place the dish back into oven and bake for 40 more minutes.
Let quiche sit for a couple of minutes before cutting it into squares and serving. Serve with sour cream and hot sauce.
NOTE: Eggs should be solid throughout when done. Test to be sure the center is cooked all the way through. Cook times may vary.
Egg recipes: Latvian piragi, Washington quiche, and more
Smashing success: The Egg and I, a Washington story
From the archives
The essential egg (Spring 2013)
More about eggs
Wilcox Family Farms, another Cougar-connected egg farm
Eggs and food safety (Washington Department of Health)
Ask Dr. Universe: What color eggs will a chicken lay?
Egg farming in Washington (HistoryLink)
Backyard henhouses mean fresh eggs on the table (WSU News, 2009)
It’s Time for a Reality Check on Eggs (The New York Times, February 6, 2024)