The Beautiful Egg
It’s that time of year that has me thinking about… EGGS! We are all about to take one of the most perfect foods in the world, dye them all sorts of colors and hide them in the grass! And yes, I will participate, because I love a good Easter egg hunt! But I actually think about eggs every single day. I eat at least one egg a day, most days I eat two. Why? BECAUSE EGGS ARE BASICALLY THE PERFECT FOOD! They are an amazing source of protein, healthy fat, vitamin B, E, D, K, B6, calcium, and I could go on! But wait, do you eat the yolk? You know, the cholesterol filled yolk? HECK YES I DO! Most of the nutrients in the dang egg are IN THE YOLK! But won’t the cholesterol in the egg cause your cholesterol to rise and then lead to heart disease? If you have followed the government guidelines for a “low fat (eggs will kill you), high carbohydrate” diet for most of your life you probably have a small fear of eggs and their scary cholesterol filled yolk. It is time to break those chains and start looking at those yummy eggs with new eyes!
Cholesterol in your diet does not contribute to a rise in cholesterol in your blood. There are many studies that support this. Check out some here and here and here and just start googling (credible sources of course) if you want to find more. Most likely the food you eat accompanying those eggs is what is leading to heart disease, like margarine, vegetable oils, sugar, or that nice piece of whole wheat toast. So now, with a little more information on eggs, lets get on to which egg you should eat first!
We see so many different labels on eggs in the grocery store, which makes it difficult to know which labels to trust. What do they all mean? Natural, cage-free, free-range, organic, they all sound good to me! But if you dig a little deeper and try to find out what all those labels really mean you will quickly find out that not all eggs are created equal.
Lets run down some of the most popular egg labels and see what lies behind them.
This sounds nice, doesn’t it? A happy little chicken roaming around, watching the sunset, hanging out with the rooster, and happily laying us yummy eggs. Not exactly. Not at all actually! Cage-free simply means they are not in a tiny cage. They are in chicken coops. Coops full of other chickens. They are fed chicken feed, not their natural diet of worms, bugs, lizards, grass and other insects. Many of the birds die of disease and heat exhaustion. Not all, but most cage-free birds eat feed supplied by large, poultry manufacturing companies who have contracted the farmers to raise the birds. This chicken feed will be a very cheap and engineered to fatten up the birds quickly.
This is basically a marketing scheme. It invokes the idea that these birds are living, eating,and laying eggs in their “natural” environment. It’s simply not true. This is an intentionally misleading term that is designed to fool the consumer.
NO HORMONES: MEANINGLESS
This is another misleading term simply put on the egg carton to fool the consumer into believing they are purchasing a safer product. No hormones are ever used in poultry. It is illegal in the United States since the 1950’s. These eggs are most likely your standard, conventional egg from a caged hen farm.
VEGETARIAN FED: WHAT? CHICKENS ARE NOT VEGETARIANS: AVOID
This is my favorite label because it is so ridiculous! Chickens eat mostly insects and we are suppose to believe they will be healthier on a vegetarian diet? Ok. Realistically “vegetarian” means they actually eat a bunch of corn to fatten them up. That’s about it.
FREE-RANGE: A SLIGHTLY BETTER CHOICE
This is a better choice when purchasing eggs because the chickens have a slightly better quality of life. It’s not as good as it sounds however. These birds are not necessarily roaming around in the sunshine all day in a green pasture eating bugs. It simply means they have access to the outdoors. This access could simply be a concrete slab outside of the coop. A lot of the time the birds won’t even venture outside so this is not much different than cage-free.
ORGANIC: A BETTER CHOICE
The birds that lay organic eggs are required to eat an organic chicken feed. This feed is produced and grown organically, and passes USDA organic regulations. These chickens are also required to be “free-range”, which we know from above is not all it’s cracked up to be. At least with organic you are not eating pesticides and other harmful ingredients that birds ingest in standard, conventional chicken feed.
PASTURE RAISED: A BETTER CHOICE
Pasture raised birds spend most of their lives outside, in a pasture or similar environment. They mostly eat worms, bugs, other insects, and grass. Their diet is usually supplemented with corn feed (not always organic). I personally would avoid a bird fed corn feed, but it’s nearly impossible this day and age. The problem with this label is that there is no regulation for it. How do we really know how much pasture time these birds actually have? Some say as little as 6 hours, just enough to justify the labeling. The lack of standards and regulations creates a wide variance in this particular egg choice.
LOCAL PASTURE RAISED: THIS IS THE BEST OPTION!
I know we don’t all have the time to go visit farms and ask the farmer what he is feeding his chickens. But if we could, or wanted to, it is rather easy to find a local farm and take a look at how the chickens live and ask the farmer what they are eating. Check out localharvest.org to find local produce and farmer markets in your area! Locally raised chickens, thriving outdoors on a genuine chicken diet (no chicken feed) is where you will find the healthiest eggs! Not to mention if you have kids they will love visiting a farm and seeing the birds!
So what’s in your average store-bought egg with no label? Lot’s of yucky unnatural stuff that you don’t want on your breakfast table! There is arsenic in many chicken feeds that can transfer to humans and is especially harmful to children. This can lead to cancer and other various illnesses. That alone is enough for me! The regular store-bought eggs are also from caged birds. They live in small crowded cages their entire (short) lives and many die from diseases in these unsanitary chicken factories. These birds are given copious amounts of antibiotics to promote rapid growth and stave off disease. These ‘medicines’ can also transfer to people causing antibiotic resistance and obesity.
The eggs pictured above were given to me by my aunt and uncle who raise their own chickens! Local pasture raised eggs have a beautiful deep orange yolk and taste amazing! Yes! You can actually taste the difference! Not to mention A TRUE PASTURE RAISED EGG HAS ABOUT 10x MORE OMEGA-3 than the average store-bought egg! With local pasture raised birds you get a wide variety of egg colors if the farmer has different breeds of hens. Just look at those eggs above! Who needs Easter egg dye! They are gorgeous!
Eat well & Happy Easter!