Can you guess which pair of these eggs is from a pasture-raised, locally sourced organic hen and which is store-bought from a (probably) caged organic hen?
If you guessed that the ones on the left are from pasture-raised hens, you are right! I know – I couldn’t believe it either. They look so much more perfect than the ones on the right …
I’ve been buying organic eggs for a while and thought that this was the best choice, until I read more about the importance of eggs coming from pasture-raised hens – in addition to being organic. Currently “cage-free” or “free-range” is a loose term because it doesn’t really specify how long a hen is kept outside versus indoors. Even if chickens are “let out” of their cages for 15 minutes during their lifetime, they can technically still be called “cage-free”, which is of course inaccurate.
I didn’t think whether or not hens were caged up mattered much, as long as they were organically raised …. Until, I came across this helpful egg buying guide at Kristin’s blog Food Renegade and started reading about pasture-raised animals and how much healthier they are. This weekend we went to the farmers’ market (Green City Farmer’s Market in Lincoln Park) and picked up some pasture-raised organic eggs. I then made 4 eggs over easy – 2 from the organic kind I bought at the store and 2 from the pasture-raised from the farmer’s market. The pasture-raised eggs were visibly much different: the yolks were larger, more well defined and a visibly deeper color of orange indicating that it’s more nutrient-rich (see above)! The regular organic ones were typical – with a yellowish and smaller yolk. But of course the pasture-raised one was more expensive (i.e. $5 per dozen – I know it’s steep but at least I’m supporting local farming and not dishing out $4 for a sugary drink from Starbucks…)
A growing number of people now know that there is a vast difference between the nutritional content of conventional eggs (hens given antibiotics, some hormones, and GMO – genetically modified- and pesticide-laden corn and soy) and that of organic eggs that come from hens that are raised naturally (without antibiotics and hormones, and which are fed organic feed). But some others will be surprised to find out how much more nutritious pastured eggs are than either organic or conventionally raised hens:
- In 1974, the British Journal of Nutrition found that pastured eggs had 50 percent more folic acid and 70 percent more vitamin B12 than eggs from factory farm hens.
- In 1988, Artemis Simopoulos, co-author of The Omega Diet, found pastured eggs in Greece contained 13 times more omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than U.S. commercial eggs.
- A 1998 study in Animal Feed Science and Technology found that pastured eggs had higher omega-3s and vitamin E than eggs from caged hens.
- A 1999 study by Barb Gorski at Pennsylvania State University found that eggs from pastured birds had 10 percent less fat, 34 percent less cholesterol, 40 percent more vitamin A, and four times the omega-3s compared to the standard USDA data. Her study also tested pastured chicken meat, and found it to have 21 percent less fat, 30 percent less saturated fat and 50 percent more vitamin A than the USDA standard.
- In 2003, Heather Karsten at Pennsylvania State University compared eggs from two groups of Hy-Line variety hens, with one kept in standard crowded factory farm conditions and the other on mixed grass and legume pasture. The eggs had similar levels of fat and cholesterol, but the pastured eggs had three times more omega-3s, 220 percent more vitamin E and 62 percent more vitamin A than eggs from caged hens.
- The 2005 study Mother Earth News conducted of four heritage-breed pastured flocks in Kansas found that pastured eggs had roughly half the cholesterol, 50 percent more vitamin E, and three times more beta carotene.
If that’s not significant, I don’t know what is! Of course, most government and corporation-sponsored websites will not admit these facts. Instead they will claim that the deeper orange color from pastured eggs simply reflect a different diet - which is true – it is a diet much superior than that of caged hens. What they don’t readily admit are the nutritional facts above, because of course we know that they have much to lose if people stopped buying industrially farmed eggs … whether “free range” or not:
I plan on joining a co-op to buy organic milk, eggs, cheese, meats, poultry from a local farmer. Check out eatwild.com for listings of some local farmers near you -or simply ask around! Pastured eggs from my co-op are about $3.50 per dozen, which is comparable to price of the organic ones from the store. This is great progress on my commitment to start buying locally sourced foods – yay! Hopefully this will be a start of a new lifestyle – one that pushes industrial farming as far away from me as possible.
Time to try out my new VitaMix! I’m making almond milk from scratch Later, gators!