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7.26.2012

Why you should buy pastured eggs.

While I think it is important for everyone to try as hard as they can to eat real food, I understand the limitations.  Grassfed beef, raw milk, and pastured organic butter are expensive and sometimes hard to find.  But if you can't afford any of those items, or you can't afford to buy only organic produce, there is one significant thing you can do- buy pastured eggs.  And there are a number of reasons why.
Our eggs are what our chickens eat...

While many people balk at the idea of spending $3 or $4 (or more) on a dozen eggs, when you think about it even the higher price is a great deal.  Even my high egg consuming family only eats about two dozen eggs a week, and at 72 grams of protein and 60 grams of fat per carton (not to mention the high concentration of fat soluble vitamins) $3 or $4 is a steal.

But still, why pay more when you can easily find eggs for as little as $1 a dozen?  It's all about what the chickens eat.

While the American Egg Board, who represents almost exclusively confinement based industrial egg producers, deny that there is a nutritional difference, multiple sources have proven the opposite- true pastured eggs from chickens who have daily access to fresh, grassy areas and bugs have, on average, more than twice as much vitamin D, E, A, Omega 3's, and less than half as much cholesterol, as well as less saturated fat (these results have been confirmed by Penn State's ag department).  The omega 6 to 3 ratio (a seriously important factor when considering animal products, and one of the most significant dietary changed in the last 100 years that I think has negatively affected our health) is less than half in pastured eggs (I don't know if I said that right- there is less omega 6 and more omega 3, as there should be!).

Hold on, let me summarize that real fast.  Pastured eggs:
  • Have LOTS more vitamin D, E, and A.
  • Are higher in Omega 3's.
  • Have a more ideal Omega 3 to 6 ratio.
  • Have less cholesterol.
And nearly as important to many people, true pastured chickens live a more natural, dignified life.  Instead of either being confined to cages where they don't have room to stretch their wings or being piled into barns with 80,000 other chickens, true pastured chickens spend most of their days outside, in grass, scratching for bugs and worms and eating grass and weeds.  They spend time taking dust baths and lounging in the sun when they aren't on the search for food.



But can't you just buy organic or free range eggs?  Aren't those better?  Not always.

Unless you're lucky and have been buying one of the brands the Cornucopia Institute gave 4 or 5 eggs, your organic or free range eggs are likely raised in exactly the same manner as industrial conventional eggs- very little space, and no realistic access to the outdoors.  The most infuriating to me was the huge red barn (in the video above) with the tiny screened in porch.  What an insult to consumers.

If you are going to eat eggs (and by all means, you should), know where they come from.  Fortunately chickens are experiencing a huge boom in back yards and barnyards across the country.  No matter where you live, even if you can't find true pastured eggs, odds are good you can find a nearby farmer or backyard flockster with excess eggs.  Or consider keeping a few of your own hens.  People automatically write this idea so fast, but I agree with Joel Salatin- chickens are quieter and cleaner than dogs, and far more useful, and every kitchen in the country should have two or three of them.  Think of what impact that alone would have- no more scraps of food sent to landfills, because just a few chickens can consume massive amounts of food scraps (and it's awesome, because if you can eat it, with the one exception of citrus fruit, a chicken can eat it), and no more industrial egg factories.  And anyone can keep chickens- it doesn't matter if you work 80 hours a week, or have kids, or have a tiny yard (or even if you live in an apartment, if you're creative), or are scared of animals.  Chickens are small, easy to care for, entertaining to watch, and cheap (er than dogs) to feed.  The only thing they consistently need is protection from predators (well, you know, beyond basic food, water, and protection from the elements) since they have no natural means of defense.

But if you aren't ready for chickens yet (give it some more thought!), make sure to know your source, and vote with your wallet.

This post has been shared at The Nourishing Gourmet's Pennywise Platter, Beyond the Peel's Keep it Real Thursday, GNOWFGLINS Simple Lives Thursday, Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday, and Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday.

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