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The Egg Taste Test – Plus: 4 Reasons To Spend Money On Good Eggs

Posted by | April 13, 2015 | Food for Thought, Paleo | 15 Comments
Egg-taste-test-larg

WHERE DID YOUR EGGS COME FROM?

Eggs are a staple of the Wild and Paleo diets. Fried, scrambled, boiled and mixed into baked goods, these little protein powerhouses are incredibly versatile, healthy, and delicious… But is every egg created equal?

Egg Taste Test Abel James

Abel and Bailey shop for farm fresh duck eggs at the Austin Farmers Market.

No, unfortunately.

And I’m not just talking about the fact that some are brown and some are white. The color of the shell has little to do with it at all—if you already enjoy farm fresh eggs you know they come in all shades from bright white to pale blue to brown and speckled and everything in between.

It’s what’s inside that counts.

Those uniform white eggs packed in perfect boxes of twelve are a product of factory farming.

Is that such a bad thing? Because it really is tempting to grab the 99 cent Styrofoam crate of factory farmed eggs when the free-range organic eggs are three or four times the price!

Trust me, this is not a grocery item you want to skimp on — the extra money you spend on quality eggs is well worth the price, and you’re still getting a relatively cheap protein that’s packed with a lot more nutrients when it comes from happy, running, pecking hens.

Here’s what you’re paying for when you buy local, free-range, organic eggs compared to their factory-farmed counterparts.

LIVING CONDITIONS — CHICKENS ARE PEOPLE, TOO

Okay, well maybe they’re not people — but they are highly social, intelligent, feeling animals.

If you follow the food industry at all, it’s highly likely that the first image you had when I said “factory farm” was pretty horrible. Cramped cages filled with excrement and stench, no sunlight or fresh air, no room to move let alone stretch a wing.

That’s EXACTLY what a factory chicken farm looks like.

Egg factory farm

A laying hen on a factory farm spends its entire life in a space that’s smaller than a sheet of copy paper, called a battery cage. It’s so tight that the hens often can’t even move their feet, so they get stuck to the wire floor. They can’t stretch their wings at all, their bones and muscles turn to mush, and their spines deteriorate—many of them dying of dehydration—which is so common that has its own name… this horrible death has been coined “cage fatigue.”

The average “useful life” of a battery caged chicken is 2 years—after which they’re ripped from their cages, often breaking what remains of their frail bones. Many are already dead and rotting beneath the overgrown talons of their cage-mates.

It’s a horrifying existence… all for a carton of 99 cent eggs or a McMuffin off the dollar menu.

HAPPY HENS LAY HEALTHIER EGGS

Countless studies have proven that eggs from free-range or pastured chickens are more nutritious than those of battery cage hens.

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

The stressed, undernourished, sick chickens do not produce quality eggs.

The fat, healthy hens running around in the grass picking at grubs, seeds, grasses, roots and bugs lay nutrient-dense eggs. Just like a varied diet, exercise, fresh air, and sunshine are good for you—they’re also good for chickens.

According to the results of a 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project, eggs from pasture-raised hens are far superior to the factory-farm eggs used in the official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data. According to the data gathered from 14 farms across the U.S., eggs from the pastured hens contain:

  • 1⁄3 less cholesterol
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene

These are not marginal numbers, here. You’d have to eat 2 factory farmed eggs to get an equivalent amount of brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You’d have to eat 3 to equal as much vitamin E! Not to mention the Vitamin A… and as for beta carotene—A WHOPPING 7 egg omelet is what you’d have to eat to reach the level of beta carotene in one happy egg!

Now, how’s that 99 cent carton of eggs looking?

SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS

Buying your eggs from a local small farmer not only means you’re getting nutritious eggs from humanely raised chickens, it also helps you:

Build relationships: In this internet age, there’s nothing like a real personal relationship to make you feel human. By visiting the farmer weekly, you know who your purchases are affecting, you share knowledge and information, and you become part of a really important interconnected web of life.

Boost your local economy: The best thing you can do for your community is to keep the money close to home, rather than letting it trickle out while the small mom and pop shops close up. The more vibrant your local economy, the greater the value of your own home and the better your quality of life.

Contribute to the sustainable food movement: It’s slowly happening… people are getting fed up with Big Food companies that rape the land, abuse animals, pollute our air, and push products on us that are literally killing us. By joining the sustainable food movement, you make a commitment to fighting back with the most powerful weapon you have—your wallet.

Reduce your carbon footprint: By making your purchases locally, you eliminate all of the fuel and storage costs that come with products shipped across the country in gas-chugging trucks. You can also reuse the egg cartons each week—drastically reducing waste.

PLUS, buying from a farmer just makes you feel good.

If you’re lucky enough to have a grocer that carries locally farmed eggs from pastured chickens, go ahead and get them! You will still be supporting two small businesses in your community… although you’ll probably be able to save a bit of money buying direct.

If you want to go REALLY local, follow the growing trend and raise your own back yard chickens!

HAPPY EGGS JUST TASTE BETTER… OR DO THEY?

Okay, so if none of these other reason haven’t gotten to you—how about the simple fact that free-range eggs from pastured chickens just taste better?

I actually took a deep breath, and against all of my better instincts, purchased a dozen cheap eggs (breathe out). I felt awful doing it—but I had to do the taste test myself to spare you the guilt of buying crappy eggs.

You’re welcome.

Here’s how it came out:

The incredibly fresh eggs from local free-running chickens definitely had firmer whites and a nice, creamy yolk that held up well when frying and boiling. The color of the yolk was deep orange… and hence, the eggs were nice and rich yellow when scrambled. These eggs were only laid a few days prior to my test. They were delicious.

Farm Fresh Eggs

Incredibly fresh eggs from local free-running chickens.

The 99 cent eggs had a much paler yolk (due to the lower omega-3 level), the whites spread really thin in the frying pan, and the boiled egg was a little hard to peel.

Their texture was off because factory farmed eggs purchased at a grocery store can be up to 60 days old! As the eggs sit, they lose some of their “quality egg” characteristic, like a yolk that stands up nicely when fried and a nice fluffy white.

As far as I am concerned, food is just as much about texture and eye appeal as it is about flavor—it’s the whole experience, and fresh pastured eggs just come out on top!

If you can’t find locally raised pastured eggs, the next best bet are free-range, organic eggs. These chickens are allowed access to the outdoors and are fed an organic diet. They are free from antibiotics—which means they have to be kept in a healthier environment so they don’t get sick.

As you think about the choices you make when feeding yourself and your family, remember that what you put in your mouth has great impact not only on your health, but also on the planet, your community, and the animals that give their lives for you.

For more information on factory produced eggs and the treatment of factory-farmed chickens, go to this story recently published in USA Today. Make sure you click on the various video and source links—if my first point here didn’t get you, it will now!

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15 Comments

  • Hugo says:

    how long time do organic eggs last in good condition?

    • Abel James says:

      All eggs will stay “good” in the refrigerator for 3-5 weeks. Pastured eggs can be kept in an open basket on the counter for up to a week without spoiling. Keep them in an open basket because of oxidation.

      • Doug says:

        It’s not whether an egg is pastured or not that determines whether it can be kept on the counter. In the US commercial eggs MUST be pressure washed (by law) and this lose the protective cuticle covering that prevents bacteria from getting into the egg. For that reason commercial eggs in the US must be kept refrigerated. Interestingly enough, just the opposite is true in Europe where it’s illegal to wash them — and therefore they don’t need to be kept in the fridge. (It’s also one reason many cooks cannot duplicate European pastry recipes — their recipes don’t mention the eggs must be at room temp since they are anyway).

        If you buy your eggs from a small local farmer, check to see whether the eggs have been pressure washed per commercial standards. If they have, refrigerate them no matter how the chickens were raised.

    • Melanie says:

      There is a really good study that was done in the 70s and is still available today, even on the web, that shows tests of farm fresh refrigerated eggs can last up to 7 months.

      • Melinda says:

        Sure, they last but they don’t keep that “quality” that the article talks about– like the nice firm yolk and creamy texture…

  • The section in the Wild Diet about eggs, and the quality and differences between the different kinds, led us to commit to purchasing the free range eggs this week. It was a hard mental sell at first, because it seemed much more expensive. But knowing how they are raised, and the quality difference of the food, has us sold. And when we broke down the numbers, it’s just a tiny change in our food budget but well worth it.

  • Dave says:

    I drive to different farmer’s market each week depending on my schedule mostly to buy eggs. I am now addicted to pastured eggs and have a hard time eating factory eggs any longer. I love the deep colors of the yolks and it make me happy knowing I am supporting family farmer’s. Thanks for a great blog post. See you in Austin this weekend!

  • Denny says:

    For a real treat, see if you can find a farmer that has duck or turkey eggs. Wonderful.

    • Rosalynn says:

      Are duck or turkey eggs any better/worse than chicken eggs?

      FYI…..My husband just sent me this article simply to support what I’ve been telling him all along. It’s great to have the nutritional data!

      Thanks!
      -R!

  • I shared this with my teenage girls (who are just discovering, what I’ve been modeling for them for their entire lives actually works:) and they were horrified. I know the extra money I spend to feed my 4 athletes these beautiful eggs is so worth it! on so many levels. Making the world better, an egg at a time. THANK YOU!

  • mark says:

    I eat upto 7-8 free range happy eggs a day and i am a happy chicken!

  • JeanE Workman says:

    After being fully educated and exposed to the agribiz practices of the U.S., I was first appalled and then decided to get proactive. Fortunately I had married a farmer so I’m able to raise a lot of my own food and I’m honored to be one of those “local farmers” who raises “Happy Chickens”! I can surely attest to the fact that chickens raised in an environment that is suited to their needs, such as having room to forage and scratch for part of their food supply, do indeed produce better eggs (and meat for that matter). I made a commitment to provide my family with healthy foods from heatlhy, happy chickens raised cruelty free as well as GMO free. Yes, it costs more but we’re all worth the extra expense, chickens included. I find our society is too out of touch with the foods, especially the meats that we consume. How often does anyone think of the actual animal that they are consuming? So much of the dairy and meat industries in this country are brutal when dealing with the actual processes of raising and processing these animals but they portray a very different view on TV commercials and other marketing media, which deceives the public greatly.
    My entire family participates in “processing” the chickens we eat as well as any other meats we consume. This way we never lose touch with the sacrifices that the animals have made in order to nourish us and we hold them sacred for such. It has also removed the guilt we felt when we purchased factory farmed meat, knowing that we were contributing to something that we felt was wrong. I try to educate others about the inhumane and unhealthy ways that our agricultural animals are raised and processed, not to mention the unhealthy feeds and chemicals that are being transferred through consumption of them. We ARE what we eat. Sadly, I find that many people just don’t want to know and although this is sometimes discouraging, I just have to keep on doing what I can to try to help bring awareness about this and hope that some of it gets through. If we don’t stay on top of these industries, we will be at their mercy just as all those poor animals are.
    Abel, gratitude to you for your efforts to educate the public. I really enjoy your perspectives and appreciate your work.

  • Alma says:

    I also noticed that factory eggs smell while organic free-range eggs don’t.
    When you open an egg, if it smells like bird sh**, it’s probably because that’s what the chicken was eating or standing on. I can’t eat factory eggs anymore because of that smell. Same as eating chicken, the meat should not smell!
    Thanks Abel for your information, and I love your podcast too :*

  • Jeeny says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, after reading this note can not stop eating eggs. Greetings.

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