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Monday, April 5, 2010

Real Food Basics: Eggs

The Real Food Basics series covers the difference between industrial (grocery store)  food and traditional, real  foods.

Recently my husband visited an egg farm as part of his job. He met the farmer and was allowed to see inside the henhouse. The man had two henhouses, actually. One was tenement slums for chickens, all crowded in together, and the other gave them space to move. "Free range," he explained. These hens are all fed the same feed. They all live inside all day, though one set of hens has more space. 

The farmer explained to my husband that free range eggs cost more because the chickens eat more. They have room to move, so they are burning more calories and eating more feed. But, he said, "Might as well buy the cheap ones, the eggs are all the same."

There is another kind of egg that I go to some effort to get- a real egg from a happy pastured raised chicken. I call them happy chickens to distinguish from "free range" or other misleading labels. A happy chicken gets chicken feed, but also goes outside in the sunshine, pecks at grass and bugs and produces healthier eggs because of it. This is a better life for the chicken, and it also produces better eggs.

Real eggs from happy chickens are different than what you find in the store. The yolks are brightly colored orange, due to the greens and insects added to the diet while they are out pecking at the ground. A study done by Mother Earth News found that pastured eggs had:

• 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

Nourishing Traditions explains more about the ratio of omega-6's to omega-3's. "Organic eggs from hens allowed to feed on insects and green plants can contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the beneficial ratio of approximately one to one, but commercial supermarket eggs from hens fed mostly grain can contain as much as nineteen times more omega-6 than omega-3!"  That is a huge difference.

Search out a farmer in your area who sells real, pastured chicken eggs. Or, raise chickens in your own backyard (a goal of mine for the future). The yolks are brighter, the flavor is richer, and they are more nutritious. 


  1. I totally agree! One time I ran out of eggs when I was on a baking spree, and went to the store to get them (the farm where I get my eggs is half an hour's drive each way). DH was so disappointed when he went to make eggs for breakfast and found store-bought eggs :-)

  2. I agree too. I couldn't stomach paying $5/ dozen for eggs (the going rate around here for pastured eggs) so in October my husband and I got 7 baby chicks. They just started laying about 6 weeks ago and the eggs are wonderful. Of course, between the chicks themselves, shipping, feed, extra greens, and then the cost of building the coop, it would probably have been more economical to pay $5/ dozen... but this way is more fun. Plus we have eggs coming out our ears and I don't have to worry about eating too many because I'll have to go out and spend another $5 sooner. Funny how illogical the brain can be.

  3. $5/ dozen is steep! Hopefully your egg project will save money in the future, right? I'm hoping so, because I want to have chickens and I wouldn't want it to be more expensive.