Aug 30, 2010

Where Do You Get Your Eggs?

“Besides providing all eight essential protein building amino acids, a large whole, fresh egg offers about six to seven grams of protein and five grams of fat (with about 1.5 grams of it saturated), which comes in handy to help in the absorption of all the egg’s fat-soluble vitamins. One egg also serves up around 200 milligrams of brain-loving cholesterol and contains the valuable vitamins A, K, E, D, B-complex and minerals iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Choline, another egg-nutrient, is a fatty substance found in every living cell and is a major component of our brain. Additionally, choline helps break up cholesterol deposits by preventing fat and cholesterol from sticking to the arteries. So the bottom line is, don’t be chicken about eating eggs, especially the cholesterol-rich yolks! “ (from WAPF article, Eat Eggs and Have Your Chickens too)

Julie has already blogged about
our invitation to the Kroger VIBE (very important bloggers’ event) last week where we were given very special treatment. We met important Kroger executives who took us on a tour of the store, provided lots of samples and a take home gift bag. And while I have plenty of issues with the current food system in America, I have to admit that some of the people running it are quite nice. They even managed to keep smiling after I admitted that I couldn’t really remember the last time I had purchased food in a Kroger store.

One of the first questions I asked at Kroger was about the recent egg scare. We were told the contaminated eggs came from a huge egg plant in Iowa which distributes millions of eggs. (That's scary even without the salmonella part.) We were also told eggs from that plant aren’t distributed to our area of the country. So I guess we have no cause for alarm (this time). We also discussed the fact that thoroughly cooking eggs protects us from salmonella poisoning. I would certainly agree that one should thoroughly cook any egg that came from a plant that distributes millions of eggs.

Everyone should do their own egg research and make their own decisions, but for myself, I’m going to continue happily eating nutrient-dense raw egg yolks
in my smoothies without concern, because my eggs come from my own backyard (see picture above) or from one of our local farmers that I know and trust who keeps chickens on pasture. Healthy birds produce healthy eggs. But chickens kept in little bitty cages with no grass or sunshine – who knows.

Since people have become more aware of the poultry industry’s practice of keeping hens in “battery cages” packed so closely together that they can barely move for almost all of their lives, we have begun to see new labels on eggs on our grocery shelves. (Sometimes commercial growers even trim the chickens' beaks. )

Not only are battery cages bad for chickens, the eggs produced by this practice are nutritionally inferior. Egg labels can be confusing and perhaps somewhat misleading. The following definitions came from “The Meaning of Free-Range, Cage-Free, and other Egg Labels” by Laura Dolson
. (Some of these labels are also used for chicken meat.)
Cage-free: The hens are not kept in cages, though there are no regulations to govern care beyond that.

Free-range: Free-range chickens are (according to voluntary regulations) supposed to have "access to the outdoors" -- however, by many reports, the care of many of these hens is structured so that they are very unlikely to go outside.

Organic: The chickens must be fed organic feed (grown without commercial fertilizers or pesticides, cannot be GMO grain), and not given hormones or antibiotics. This has nothing to do with how the chickens are kept, however.

Humanely Raised: This is a totally unregulated definition, although organizations are springing up to try to come up with common definitions. The most prominent organization, Humane Farm Animal Care, has a certification process, which includes no cages, and hens having at least 1.5 square feet of floor space. Free-range hens must have outside access, and doors to the outside "must allow more than one hen at a time to exit".

Omega-3 eggs: some hens are fed flax seed, which also dramatically increases the amount of omega-3 in the yolks of the eggs.
Pastured: According to the USDA Trade Descriptions, "birds are raised outdoors using movable enclosures located on grass and fed an organic diet (without hormones or non-organic additives) and/or raised without antibiotics (drugs that are intended to prevent or treat animal illnesses)". The advantage to pasture-raised eggs is that the hens are able to eat a wide variety of the natural food of chickens -- greens, grubs, etc. Not only do many people find these eggs to be much tastier, but there is accumulating evidence that the eggs from these hens have better nutritional profiles -- less cholesterol, less fat but more healthy Omega-3 fat, and more of other nutrients such as vitamin A, lutein, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.

I try to get all my eggs from chickens on pasture. Since chickens eat a lot of feed in addition to the bugs and greens from the pasture, I also look for farmers whose supplemental feed for their pastured birds is organic.

I highly recommend that you take a quick look at this chart summarizing the Mother Earth News 2007 egg testing project. It provides some very compelling evidence regarding the nutritional superiority of pastured eggs over conventionally raised eggs.

If you’re not yet completely convinced that there is truly a difference in pastured verse conventional (even conventional organic) eggs, this link will help you “get the picture


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1 comment:

  1. Lisa, good column about an important topic. I would encourage you and your readers to check out the American Humane Association Certified animal welfare program. The scientifically-based program was the first ever and has been around for a decade. Certified producers must meet a strict set of criteria, then continue to comply in annual reviews. In addition to certifying beef, veal and pork producers, nearly two-thirds of all cage-free eggs being produced in the U.S. now come from producers that have earned the American Humane Certified label. Learn more at



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