Are you buying the eggs with the little red stamp on them? Do you know why?
Let's talk about the regular egg first. Did you know that the creators of these eggs at as young as 4 months, are forced to share a 2 square foot cage with 2-3 other young chicks? Because of these crowded conditions, just like humans packed together, disease is prevalent. Thus they need to be given antibiotics in their feed. They also are given hormones so that they will produce more eggs in a timely manner. Summary: A lot of chicks in a crowded, sickly environment with a glut of hormones? Sounds like they might need to include some Zoloft!
If you want to learn MORE than you ever really wanted to know about Chicken Farms, or are just needing a little push to become a vegetarian. The book, Skinny B*tch
(Wasn't sure I could write that) will definitely be an interesting read.
"Free-roaming, cage-free, organic vegetarian feeders, natural nesters, free run chickens" Sounds idyllic. I can just picture the little chicks now out on the rolling hillside following their mother, growing strong on the fresh, clean farm land and sparkling river water, learning to lay nutrient dense, superior eggs. Well, of COURSE these eggs would be better. At least in my simplistic mind.
Things, as usual, are not quite so simple. There are a few differences here.
Let me explain:
Free-roaming, cage-free birds is the nice term for "high-density floor confinement". They are allowed to run the floor of the barn, often with no access to the outdoors. They are fed the same food as "regular layers". (unless otherwise specified.)
The term “free-range” generally means that each bird has it's own 2 square feet of floor space. It doesn't tell us anything about what they're fed. Free-range birds are required to have access to the outside most of the year plus roosts for resting. They may or may not actually get outside.
Now for nutritional terms on the labels.
If your egg says omega 3 eggs, then the feed given to the birds has 10-20% flax seed in it. (Yes, the same flax seed we eat). It makes their yolks a beautiful deep yellow.
If the label says vegetarian or vegetarian-fed, then these birds are given no food with animal by-products. Animal by-products? I wonder eggs-actly what that means? I don't think I'll take the time to look that up. I learned a little too much about processed dog food from my doggie nutritionist last week. (Think Canibal.)
When a label says organic, then you're really getting somewhere. These birds MUST have access to an organic outside area year round and are fed at least 80% organic feed. They each have to have at least 2 square feet of space. You can bet these eggs will cost you.
No great surprise here, but the most nutrient-dense eggs laid by the happiest hens are allowed to roam on a new piece of pasture 1-2 times a day. They get a good amount of their diet from eating insects and poking around in the grass for tidbits that this makes their eggs naturally higher in omega 3 fatty acids and many other nutrients.
According to a 2007 study conducted by Mother Earth News that compared eggs from pastured hens to eggs from conventionally kept hens, pastured eggs have:
• 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
Looking for more vitamin D? Every disease process around seems to be linking itself to lack of Vitamin D lately. Well, you're in luck. Research shows that pastured eggs have between 4-6 TIMES as much vitamin D as the "regular egg."
Know anyone with chickens? That might be the best way to obtain some of these "incredible, edibles". Once you try the rich, sweet taste of a pastured egg, you won't want to go back to the pale tasteless ones. I am SO thankful that one of my boot campers raises chickens and brings their happy eggs to class on Monday for us to buy! Thanks Lorrie! They're Egg-cellent!
If you're worried about price, calories or cholesterol. Follow the advice given to all of my clients: Eat 1 whole egg and several egg whites per meal. You've just treated yourself a high dose of Omega 3, Vitamin A,D,E,Beta Carotene and amazingly lean and usable protein!
Eggs, another good eggs-ample of "Your are what you eat".
Enjoying the journey,
~Whitney Cabrera RN, BSN
Fitness and Nutrition Consultation