I write a lot about the importance of eating quality foods because the higher the quality of food you eat, the MORE nutrients you receive from those foods and the LESS anti-nutrients you take in.
Anti-nutrients are the synthetic compounds found in foods that interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Anti-nutrients can even interfere on the cellular level affecting proper cellular function. Eek!
You have heard the saying “you are what you eat” but when it comes to animal proteins and fats, the saying should actually go a little more like this… “you are what you eat, eats!” 😉
My mother brought me a half dozen of pasture raised eggs the other day from a friend who raises chickens on her property. These chickens roam around, pluck worms out of the ground, nibble on grass and rest in their chicken coop. See below! These chickens are sure livin’ the good chicken life!
When Mom sent me the pictures, warm feelings of abundance and joy bubbled up in me… there’s something special about witnessing animals raised the way nature intended. Seeing these pictures inspired me to give you guys the run down on the levels of quality in regards to eggs.
See there’s a concept I have called the Quality Food Spectrum. Conventional eggs, the cheapest eggs, would be on the low end of the quality food spectrum and the pasture-raised eggs would be on the highest end of the quality food spectrum.
This is not to say that eating a conventional egg is horrible for you! I am not that kind of nutritionist… But I do think it helps being well-informed to make the best decisions you can for you and your family.
These are your standard eggs from the grocery store and are they are the cheapest.
HOW THEY ARE RAISED
The unfortunate reality is that despite the picture of happy chickens roaming in a field on the egg carton, these chickens are raised in factories where they are crowded together in a small space either trampling each other or in an individual cage where they may not even be able to flap their wings much less have exercise. Some of these chickens spend their entire life without ever seeing daylight! They also may be fed antibiotics and hormones to keep the chickens “healthy” in such tight conditions. One bird gets sick… well they all get sick.
And I have to say this was the most attractive and clean picture of conventional “layers”. That’s what they call chickens in the industry who lay eggs, “layers”. Some pictures were down right gross looking and well… while that might be the reality, I wasn’t sure if you had your breakfast yet, so I thought I would tone it down a notch!
WHAT THEY EAT
These chickens are fed through automatic troughs with GMO-rich corn and soy based feed and these feeds can include “slaughterhouse waste”. Just the sound of that makes me wince; what about you? Slaughterhouse waste includes any “animal body parts cut off in the preparation of carcasses for use as food”… and that can come with bacteria, pathogens and any antibiotics or hormones the animals were exposed to before slaughter. Ick!! AND, you probably recognize this already, but corn, soy and slaughterhouse waste is not the indigenous diet of chickens. Chicken’s bodies weren’t designed to digest and metabolize these foods. The health implications of this shows.
ALL NATURAL EGGS
All natural eggs come from the same conventional chickens described above. Sad reality, sad quality of life. The only major difference is that the eggs marked “all natural” on the egg cartons are typically fed feeds without “slaughterhouse waste”. And if they are natural, they may also be free from antibiotics or hormones… but ALWAYS check the labeling. There are no FDA regulations for the term “natural”.
OMEGA-3 ENRICHED EGGS
Omega-3 rich eggs come from chickens that are usually raised conventionally, meaning in crowded cages. However, because these chickens produce higher quality eggs and thus command a higher price tag, some (not all!) omega-3 egg producers do allow their chickens some access to the outside.
WHAT THEY EAT
What sets omega-3 rich eggs apart is that their feed is vegetarian (so no slaughterhouse waste) AND the feed includes omega-3 rich flax seed. Flax seeds are a source of the short-chain omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, (Alpha-Linolenic Acid). Unfortunately, short chain omega-3 fatty acids HAVE to be converted by the human body to the long chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) in order for the body to be able to put it to good use. The problem is that the conversion rate is about 1% to 15%.
This is where the chicken comes in! The chickens are able to do the conversion work for you! They are fed the flax seeds that contain ALA, they convert the ALA to long chain omega-3’s EPA and DHA… and you get all of the added health benefits of the long-chain omega-3s in their eggs! EPA is an anti-inflammatory and DHA supports proper cognitive development and maintenance.
Their feed is typically free of antibiotics, hormones and steroids as well. BUT, always check the labeling to confirm!
OMEGA-3 ENRICHED EGG NUTRITION
Omega-3 eggs have 10X more Vitamin E, 25% less saturated fat and more than 2X the omega-3 fatty acids compared to conventional eggs. They also have 5X the amount of Vitamin D, 3X the amount of B12 and 38% more lutein.
Personally, I recommend organic, omega-3 eggs if you dont’ have access to pasture raised eggs! MORE, MORE, MORE nutrients!
Organic chickens must be raised caged free and provided outdoor access. Their feed has to be made from all organic ingredients and be free of toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides as well as no GMO or slaughterhouse by-products. This means they have LESS anti-nutrients!
Note: Organic labeling simply means the feed needs to be organically sourced, it does not mean the feed includes the additional flaxseed required for extra omega-3. So check the labeling if you want to include more omega-3 in your diet.
CAGE FREE AND FREE RANGE NUTRITION
I’m going to couple these because they are so similar. Cage free eggs come from chickens that are provided an open space rather than a cage or coop… but there are no regulations about how crowded they are. Free range eggs come from chickens that are given mandatory exposure to the outside. However there are no regulations in regards to the amount, duration, or quality of outdoor time… and a lot of chickens don’t choose to go outside despite being given the opportunity.
PASTURE RAISED EGGS
Pasture-raised eggs are as close as you are going to get to the chicken’s natural environment for commercially produced eggs. You can also purchase pasture raised eggs from local farmers or farmers markets. (They have the best deals!)
Pasture-raised chickens spend most of their time outside with space to be active and have access to a barn or coop. They eat the indigenous diet of a chicken, worms, insects and some feed (this may or may not be organic feed but typically is organic and it may or may not include flax seeds to increase the omega-3 nutrient content of the eggs).
You can tell how much added nutrition there is in an egg by comparing egg yolks… well at least in the United States you can! Did you know that egg yolks come in all shades of yellow and orange depending on what country you are in? Crazy, right?! Egg producers use an animal-feed additive which includes synthetic carotenoids which allows producers to create yolks in 15 different shades! And each country has their preference from lemon yellow in Canada to blood orange in Japan.
Here’s the really interesting part… While the EU tends to have stricter quality guidelines than the United State’s FDA, the FDA prohibits the use of artificial color additives in eggs.1
What does that mean for you? Because there can be NO synthetic color additives, the various shades of egg yolks from conventional eggs (light, pale yellow) to pasture raised eggs (deep orange) represent the true quality of the egg.
I know I “talked” a lot about the environment in which the chickens were raised and their feed… but let’s talk taste… Pasture-raised eggs TASTE amazing! They have a deeper, richer, more “eggy” flavor. And that my friends is my official food review. 😉
One more thing… I know quality foods cost more. BUT, consider this.
If a dozen pasture raised eggs cost you $6… that IS ONLY 50 cents an egg! Seriously… have you ever actually sat down and done the math?!?! When you consider that it would cost you $1 for 2 eggs in the morning for breakfast… knowing that you are eating eggs full of nutrients and none of the crazy anti-nutrients found in conventional eggs, it makes the higher price tag a little easier to swallow (no pun intended!) when choosing quality eggs.
Consider this: How many times do you buy a bottle of water for $1 while out and about OR how many overpriced coffees do you buy that costs almost as much as a dozen pasture raised eggs?!
This week consider skipping your $6 coffee that probably has WAY too much sugar in it anyway, and try a dozen pasture raised eggs… and then tell me what you think!!
Buy the most nutrient dense, quality eggs you have access to and can afford to buy! That’s it. Do your best with what ya got!