Not all eggs are created equally. In fact, the nutritional value from egg to egg varies so dramatically it is actually unbelievable. Chickens are designed to eat green plants, insects, worms, and seeds, however, many factory farm birds never even see the light of day and are fed a diet of corn, soy, and man-made additives to increase their egg production. Eggs, when chosen wisely, are an amazing food packed with vitamins, nutrients, and proteins. We will look at three categories in order to determine which type of egg is the healthiest to eat and feed your family – conventional, organic, and pastured.
CONVENTIONAL EGGS: Conventional eggs are the eggs sold in every major supermarket throughout the United States. These eggs, sold by large corporations, come from chickens who are kept indoors, fed the cheapest diet possible, and may or may not be treated with antibiotics as a result of their poor diet. The eggs from these chickens are 21% more likely to contain salmonella as a result of the caged conditions of their existence. Not only is the caged environment cruel to the animal, it produces eggs which are lacking in valuable nutrients, and may even be harmful to your health.
ORGANIC EGGS: Eggs that are certified organic by the USDA are certainly better than conventional eggs, but not the best egg on the market. Organic eggs guarantee three main things. The first is that the chickens cannot be treated with any antibiotics or hormones, and the second is that the eggs are arsenic free, and the third is that their feed is certified organic. What the organic certification doesn’t regulate is what exactly the chicken is being fed. The words “free range,” “cage free,” and “natural” are not regulated by the USDA, allowing anyone to make these claims as long as their chickens have access to the outdoors. As long as they provide a tiny door through which the hen could pass, they are able to make these claims. Even if their chickens never even go outside. Even if there isn’t actually any pasture for the chickens to forage. Your carton of eggs could currently claim to be “free-range” even if the hens your eggs came from never went outside, or did step outside only to find paved concrete. Why on the earth does this matter? Because, as is true with all animal products – what your food eats dramatically affects the nutritional value of your food. Let’s now examine eggs as they were intended to be…. pastured eggs.
ORGANIC, PASTURED EGGS: These eggs are far superior to all other eggs in taste and nutritional value. When a hen is given actual access to the outdoors and has plants, seeds, insects, and worms to eat, her eggs are dramatically different from conventional (and even organic) eggs. Truly pastured eggs have 7 times more beta carotene, 3 times more vitamin E, 60% more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 25% less saturated fat, and 30% less cholesterol than every other egg on the market. You can often times tell a truly pastured egg by the color of the yolk. Conventional eggs have a very light yellow yoke, while the yoke of a pastured egg is a deep orange. And, we promise you – even if you weren’t aware of the astounding increase in nutrients of a pastured egg, once you try one, you won’t be able to go back to your old eggs. They are that good! While these eggs are often harder to come by and more expensive, we believe it is worth the effort and the money. There are many farmers selling organic, pastured eggs at our farmer’s markets, and also at a select few health food stores around Seattle. To find pastured eggs near you, check out Eat Wild and Local Harvest. Additionally, to be sure of the quality of your eggs check out the Cornucopia Institute’s Egg Scorecard.
*Sources: Cornucopia Institute, Mother Earth News, Once a Month Mom.
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