Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. That’s the conclusion reached by the Mother Earth News egg testing project. Their testing (a few years old admittedly) found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
• 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
These amazing results come from 14 flocks around the country that range freely on pasture or are housed in moveable pens that are rotated frequently to maximize access to fresh pasture and protect the birds from predators. Six eggs from each of the 14 pastured flocks were tested by an accredited laboratory in Portland, Oregon. The chart at the end of this article shows the average nutrient content of the samples, compared with the official egg nutrient data from the USDA for “conventional” (i.e. from confined hens) eggs. The chart lists the individual results from each flock.
These dramatically differing nutrient levels are most likely the result of the different diets of birds that produce these two types of eggs. True free-range birds eat a chicken’s natural diet — all kinds of seeds, green plants, insects and worms, usually along with grain or laying mash. Factory farm birds never even see the outdoors, let alone get to forage for their natural diet. Instead they are fed the cheapest possible mixture of corn, soy and/or cottonseed meals, with all kinds of additives.
The conventional egg industry wants very much to deny that free-range/pastured eggs are better than eggs from birds kept in crowded, inhumane indoor conditions. A statement on the American Egg Board’s Web site says “True free-range eggs are those produced by hens raised outdoors or that have daily access to the outdoors.”
In short, real pastured eggs are much more nutrient dense. I would go so far as to say they’re healthy. Rather than being loaded down with so-called “bad” cholesterol, they’re actually rich in the cholesterol your body needs to keep your memory in tip-top shape, your mood serene, and all your organs and cells repaired.
Don’t be fooled by labels, though. It’s nearly impossible to find real eggs in the supermarket, despite packaging labels like “organic,” “free range,” “all natural,” or “cage free.”
The only ways to eat real eggs are to: a) collect them yourself from your own hens, or b) buy them directly from someone else who does.
Surprisingly, neither option is all that hard. If you’re not quite ready to build your own chicken coop and get into the world of fowl husbandry, you can find a local egg supplier on sites like www.eatwild.com or www.localharvest.org.