Unscrambling the Egg (Carton)
Eggs are one of nature’s perfect foods. Egg are one of the most nutritious dietary choices you can make.
Eggs are loaded with a wide variety of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, essential amino acids, vitamins D and E, as well as key players in the B family (folate, choline, and riboflavin) and minerals, including calcium, potassium, and iron according to the 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project.
Eggs have been given a bad rap for many years. Although egg yolks are relatively high in cholesterol, numerous studies have confirmed that eggs have virtually nothing to do with raising your cholesterol. Research published in the International Journal of Cardiology showed that, in healthy adults, eating eggs every day did not produce a negative effect on endothelial function (an aggregate measure of cardiac risk); nor did it increase cholesterol levels.
Not All Eggs are Created Equal
I won’t buy eggs from big grocery stores even if they state that they are organic.
The ranchers growing these foods for big producers like Ralphs, Vons, Costco and big grocery chains have a big production. “Organic” eggs may be coming from industrial scale chicken operations.
With big ranching production follows questionable and inhumane standards.
Trying to figure out the information printed on egg cartons in a way that meets your ethics and sustainable standards can be a confusing and frustrating experience.
Images are often used to evoke happy chickens in open pastures. Those images may not actually reflect the reality of how those hens were cared for.
Here is a list of frequently used labels and definitions that should help you unscramble the puzzle thanks to the help of edible Marin and wine country.
The list below helps describe the difference between conventional, cage-free, and free range/roaming, pasture-raised, organic outdoor access chicken.
Conventional or battery cage: These wire cages (all around) hold up to eight hens per cage and are stacked indoors in multi-level structures. 95% of all eggs in America use this production method. There is no room for the chickens to scratch, roam, forage, walk or spread their wings.
Cage-free: Implies that hens laying the eggs are housed, uncaged, inside barns and warehouses.
It does NOT mean hens have access to the outdoors to forage the pastures and eat bugs even though are
they are allowed to walk, nest and spread their wings. Unfortunately there is a no 3rd party certification
verifying the claim.
Free Range: Implies that chickens are provided unlimited access to food and water, and continuous access to the outdoors but the amount, duration and quality of that access is undefined. Chickens aren’t interested to be outdoors (even if they have 24 access) if the land is baron. And most times, the door leading to the outside world is limited and small.
Certified Organic: If certified organic by the USDA’s national organic program, the birds are un-caged and outdoor access is required, but the amount, duration and quality of that access is undefined. They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet, free of antibiotics and pesticides. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. There are also local and regional organic certifications such as California Certified Organic Farmers and Marin Organic that may have varying standards for organic certification. 1 in 10 organic egg cartons sold in the United States originates from England’s Best Label complex that houses more than 1.6 million hens filling barn at 3 hens per square foot.
Pasture Raised: no regulation. Hens receive part of their food from foraging on greens and bugs which is what they were meant to live off. Studies have found that pasture raised egss have more nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E and beta carotene. Many ranchers who adhere to laws of sustainability use mobile coops and grazing rotations. research shows that egg nutrition is significantly boosted when the egg comes from an organically raised pasture-range chicken. Pasture Raised eggs contained three times more omega-3 than conventionally raised eggs, twice as much vitamin E, 40 percent more vitamin A, 50 percent more folate, and 70 percent more vitamin B-12.
Watch the embedded video below to see what Cage Free Chicken means and see if you would like your next dinner or eggs to be coming from this kind of farm.
“Animals were meant to be out in pasture foraging and pasturing. Giving animals the space and the food that they can assimilate is not only moral and humane, it’s certainly better for the animals and for us consumers. Unfortunately with factory farms, that’s not case” by David Kirby, author, Animal Factory.
Ever wonder what the labels “vegetarian”, “organic”, “Corn Free”, “Soy Free”, “Omega 3”, and “Non GMO” mean? Read this post for details and find out which kind to choose.
BareFood Angel’s “Best Eggs” Recommendation
Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture.
Just because it says that the chicken is free range doesn’t mean it is pasture raised the way nature intended.
Why I go beyond “certified organic” label when it comes to consuming eggs and animal products?
Eggs have to be pasture raised besides be fed sustainably.
If certified organic by the USDA’s national organic program, the birds are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet, GMO and free of antibiotics and pesticides. Most likely the feed will contain corn and/or soy.
Shop from local, small farmers/ranchers who practice sustainably and produce food that adhere to the laws of nature.
Ask them if the chickens are cage free, free roaming or pasture raised.
Then ask if they are fed any supplements. As if the feed is GMO free.
Shop from your local farmer’s market or your local healthful store. You’ll have more options.
Why should all this matter?
Cheap food is cheap for a reason. The process cuts corners to save money. It ends up inhumane, processed and not natural. Since you become what you eat, you want your food to be as pure and humanely treated as possible.
As my hubby jokingly, but truthfully says, “Cheap food is no good. Good food is not cheap”.
You don’t have to be a vegetarian or animal welfare activist to care how animals are treated.
Demand better by eating consciously and voting with your dollar.
Hope you found this article helpful.
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