Although I used to buy my eggs from a large retailer, in the last six months I’ve switched over to purchasing fresh eggs from a nearby farm (Lubbers Family Farm). As you might guess, there is a big difference between these two types of eggs. I decided it was a post-worthy topic when the farm was out of eggs a week or so ago, and I had to buy the best I could (which was organic, supposedly cage-free eggs) from the grocery store.
Unfortunately, there is no regulation for advertising “free range” on eggs so companies can add that to their label when all it really means is that the chicken had some access to the outdoors. It does not elude to what specific environment the chickens were raised in (how often they had access to the outdoors and how much space was available) or how they were treated. My egg carton from the store notes “cage free”, another unregulated advertisement and I have a big trust issue since I am forced to believe this label, when I cannot see the farm.
Moving on though, and to answer the challenge- congratulations! Most of you could tell the difference between the two eggs. Egg #2 was the egg fresh from the farm as you could see from the deep orange color of the yolk. Mass-produced eggs tend to have a much lighter color, reflective of the different diet of the chickens.
The eggs fresh from the farm are from pastured chickens, meaning the chickens do what they are supposed to do- eat bugs and greens, wander in the grass, and enjoy the sunshine. These chickens are also fed organic grain and give back nutrients to the soil in the pastures.
On the other hand, mass produced chickens are generally fed an unnatural, cheap diet of corn, cottonseed, or soy meals. Often times the conditions are crowded, inhumane, and stressful for the birds (more on this below).
The eggs produced from pastured chickens are shown to have a much higher nutritional value than mass-produced eggs, including increased vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. I found a great chart from a local farm depicting the nutritional value of the farm eggs as compared to supermarket eggs if you want to check it out.
I hate to go back to the inhumane part of mass-produced eggs, but I feel that it’s not enough just to say that the conditions are poor for these hens. A factory farm for eggs can have awful conditions such as “battery cages” with 7″ x 7″ spaces for hens and no options for sunlight. In addition to this cruelty is the process of debeaking for the baby chicks that are allowed to live (males are often “thrown out” as they don’t produce eggs) where most of the beak, which has many nerves, is either cut or burned off without anesthetic.
Some chicks die of shock from this procedure and others beaks become so deformed that they cannot eat and thus starve to death. I am crying inside right now for all of these little birds! Nutritional factors aside- it’s just plain wrong! If the birds are given healthy conditions with enough space, the birds can have beaks without hurting each other.
Overall, eggs provide us another opportunity to connect with our food and ensure that is as healthy and nutritional as possible. It’s important to get right down to the source of the eggs; talking with a local farmer at their farm or at a local market is a good way to get started. By supporting local farms, we can give back to our local community, get better eggs, and stop supporting egg factories that care nothing for the chickens or the nutrition we will receive from their less-than-quality eggs.