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?
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.
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 backyard 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.
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.
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.
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.
Ready for a new egg recipe to whip up for breakfast? Meet your new friend, the Green Monster Frittata with Bruchetta.