Over the last couple of years I’ve learned that not all eggs are equal. I’ve done some side by side comparisons and research and there are some striking differences…specifically between factory-farmed eggs (mass production of eggs within a warehouse) and pasture-raised eggs (birds that spend their days out in fresh pastures).
I’m going to sort through what you should know in order for you to make informed decisions about your eggs. 🙂
- How you can tell if the the egg comes from a healthy bird
- Does the color of the egg shell matter?
- What some of the egg labels really mean
- The good, better, and best for picking eggs
While there are definitely agricultural concerns to the lifestyle of factory-farmed chickens, I’d like to focus on the diet and lifestyle of the chicken in relation to how it effects our health.
A healthier chicken produces a more nutritious egg.
(Image: Pasture raised chickens feeding on the grass)
Eating an egg from a healthy chicken, allows you to receive the best benefits/nutrients that an egg has to offer. (This is an example of the popular statement, “You are what you eat”.) Animals really aren’t much different than us in this way. They need sunshine, a healthy diet, water, and exercise to feel well and be healthy. A healthy diet for chickens is not only eating grain, but grass, greens, and worms.
(Image: Birds on the left are factory-farmed chickens who live in very confined spaces, little to no sunshine, and very poor diet. Birds on the right are pasture-raised chickens with healthy diet, exercise, and sunshine.)
How to tell how healthy the chicken was from looking at your egg? Crack the egg open and see if the yolk is orange or yellow. Did you know the yolk is supposed to be dark orange, not yellow?! Food for thought. 😛
(Image: This image is from me doing a side-by-side comparison of both types of eggs: Yellow egg yolk (on the left side) is an organic factory-farmed egg. Orange egg yolk is pasture-raised. Such a big difference not only in color, but in nutrition and taste!)
I used to think brown egg shells were the healthy eggs, and egg labels would like us to believe this is the case. But, this is a myth. The different colors of egg shells depends on the breed of the chicken; nothing to do with the health of the chicken. (Ah-ha!)
Egg Labels are just about as confusing as it gets. Here are some simple explanations of the more popular egg labels. Some of the regulations and descriptions may surprise you…
Cage-Free: Chickens aren’t confined to a cage and are free to roam a warehouse or some other enclosed area, with unlimited access to food and water. In addition, there is no outside time required or specific requirements on how much space each chicken gets. It can sometimes be as small as the size of a piece of printer paper.
Natural: The “natural” label has nothing to do with the way the chicken is housed and fed. It is simply saying that nothing has been added to the eggs (all eggs meet this criteria!).
Free-Roaming: This label is regulated by the USDA and indicates there is a shelter provided with unlimited access to food and water, and the outdoors. There are no regulations specifying the quality or how long these birds are outside. Basically, this could mean there is an opening to a small, crowded dirt yard for 5 minutes per day.
Certified organic: The birds are fed organic feed, are kept uncaged (in warehouses), and must have access to the outdoors. The quality of the outdoor environment, amount of time, is not regulated, which means it is minimal and low quality. It also means, organic egg producers cannot use antibiotics except during an infectious outbreak.
Pasture-Raised: This is the ideal lifestyle and diet for a healthy chicken. Chickens are to be raised in a green pasture, and therefore, should produce the most nutritious eggs by feeding not only on grain, but grass and worms too. However, the term “pasture-raised” is not regulated, so it’s always a good idea to ask questions.
Good, Better, Best
Good option: Organic eggs (Most convenient, but can be more expensive than pasture-raised).
Better option: Pasture-Raised eggs (Find a local farmer/or friend with chickens).
Best option: Organic Pasture-Raised eggs (Find a local farmer who follows organic procedures).
Thanks for letting me geek out with you….learning about our food is my jam. I hope it helps you make more informed decisions too! 🙂
I’d love to hear any thoughts or tidbits about eggs that you know! Share below! 🙂