How Important is it to Choose the Right Type of Hen Egg?
Long considered less than healthy by mainstream media, “going to work on an egg” is one of the best ways to start your day. Eggs are one of the most economical ways to increase the nutrients in your family’s diet.
They are full of vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, beta carotene, good cholesterol, and the now back in favor saturated fat. But with all the different labels that come with your box of eggs, how do you know that you are getting the best nutritious value possible?
When I cook a soft boiled egg for my granddaughter on her visits, we always check to see that the yolk is a deep yellow color. Then she knows that the chicken that laid it has been able to eat lots of insects and worms outdoors first!
The color could not be more important
Dull pale yellow yolks mean they are eggs from caged hens while organic pastured eggs have bright orange yolks – it is as simple as that!
And did you know that just like humans, chickens need to be outdoors to get vitamin D from the sun.
So what choice do you have when it comes to eggs?
Top of the list is organic pastured eggs. These eggs have: 5 times more vitamin D; 2/3 more vitamin A; twice as much omega-3 fatty acids; 3 times more vitamin E; and 7 times more beta carotene than regular eggs. Organic pastured eggs are laid by pastured, free-roaming hens raised on certified organic food with no corn or soy, no synthetic pesticides, fungicides or herbicides and no fertilizer exposure.
Plain pastured means free range hens having the choice to roam and forage for a natural diet of seeds, green plants, insects and worms – just as they would if you were able to keep hens in your own property. But their diet is usually supplemented with grain.
The terms free-roaming, free range and cage-free hens are not as good as they sound. The hens are often roaming in an open indoor area with possible limited outdoor access. This outdoor facility could well be a barren area. They may well be fed a less than healthy diet with the risk of veterinary drug contamination. All of these factors can result in poorer quality eggs.
Of course bottom of the list has to be eggs from caged or battery hens. The chickens are crowded in cages with little or no room to move or turn around. They’re pumped with antibiotics and fed genetically modified (GM) feed. They’re sick and very unhealthy — which is why it is not rare to find salmonella with factory farm chickens and eggs.
In addition, avoid omega-3 fortified eggs because the hens are usually fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Omega-3 eggs have a much shorter shelf life.
Sometimes you may see vegetarian eggs which are laid by hens fed a vegetarian diet. The important thing to remember is that chickens are NOT vegetarians. Chickens are supposed to eat bugs and worms. That’s where they get their protein!
Where do you find real organic pastured eggs?
You will find them at your local farmer’s market. Don’t be shy to chat to any of the farmers there selling their pastured eggs, asking them more about their hens such as if they are kept outdoors and what they are fed. You will soon get a feel for the right buy and of course you can expect to pay more for these special total food packages of goodness.
There are two reasons to change to organic pastured eggs. The first of course is their nutritious value but the second is to support those who want to give their poultry the most humane and natural living conditions possible.