“When chickens get to live like chickens, they will taste like chickens too.” ~Michael Pollan
Eggs are truly an ideal food.
Not only are they one of the best sources of protein, but also one of the least expensive. And nearly everyone can tolerate eating them regularly. Many mistakenly believe eggs are bad for your heart due to their cholesterol content, but this is a serious misconception. Aside from being an ideal source of protein, eggs can also provide vital nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin E, omega-3 fats and beta carotene. However, not all eggs are made equal…
Conventional egg production agriculture (also known as a “Confined Animal Feeding Operation” or CAFO) raises hens indoors and in cages. Large commercial egg facilities typically house tens to hundreds of thousands of hens. This has raised concerns about animal welfare, environmental damage and nutritional impacts. Egg-laying hens confined to cages do not have space to move or stretch, becoming prone to skeletal problems and disease. Large numbers of animals confined in small spaces also pollute the air, water and soil with the vast amounts of manure they produce.
True free-range eggs are from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet including seeds, green plants, insects and worms. According to USDA regulations, free-range, egg-producing hens must be given access to the outdoors. However, many large commercial egg producers get away with allowing their hens access to a tiny, covered outdoor area while still giving the hens conventional feed. The feed is a crucial component, as the main ingredients of commercially raised hens’ diets are genetically modified (GMO) soy and corn. Commercial eggs, even if they state “free-range” on their label, will typically fall into this category.
Your best source to buy fresh eggs is a local market or farmer that allows hens to forage freely outdoors. In addition to being more environmentally friendly and humane, free-range eggs are also nutritionally superior. You can tell if the eggs are truly “free-range” by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens that are fed a healthy, natural diet produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign the eggs came from caged hens that were confined from foraging for their natural diet.
Ultimately, there is no better way of knowing where your food comes from than to grow it yourself. Raising chickens ensures a steady supply of fresh, nutritious organic eggs free of antibiotics, hormones and other unnatural additives. Next summer, along with a vegetable garden, I am also going to be starting my own backyard chicken coop. For those of you who are interested in becoming more self-sustainable, I will be sharing my research and experience all along the way….stay tuned !
[Featured photo credit: Nicole Ricci, Write for You Marketing]