The Incredible Edible Egg

With so many farms in the Triad offering fresh eggs, eggs certainly  deserve their own post. They’re delicious, versatile, and a fairly affordable protein source, but the options and opinions can be overwhelming and even controversial. We aren’t going to be able to solve all those problems in 500 words or less, but why don’t we eggsplore a few answers?

Tony Hearst with one of his girls at Summerfield Farms

Tony Hearst with one of his girls at Summerfield Farms

Healthy or Not?
Everything in moderation is the rule (for now and for most of us). Here’s what the Harvard School of Public Health has to say “While it’s true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol—and so may weakly affect blood cholesterol levels—eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate.” They and other sources recommend up to an egg a day for most of us.

Farm fresh eggs

Farm fresh eggs

White vs. Brown vs. Speckled vs. Blue vs. Green
Different breeds lay different colors (check out this chart) and egg color is unrelated to nutrition. Using this information, if you’re picking between a set of brown eggs and set of white eggs laid by hens living in similar conditions, the only difference to you will be the price. Did you know people in the northeastern US prefer brown eggs?

Nice little nest eggs.

Nice little nest eggs.

Cage-free vs. Natural vs. Free-range vs. Organic vs. Omega 3 enriched vs. Cadbury
Just kidding about the Cadbury, but don’t you agree the array of eggs at the grocery store is a bit overwhelming? Here’s the basic takeaway:

  • “regular” eggs typically come from chickens confined in cages;
  • USDA Organic eggs are fed an organic diet and are not in cages, but are in henhouses with access to the outdoors (they may or may not actually go outside and the outside may or may not have grass);
  • All the other labels (with the exception of Cadbury) tell you the eggs are intended to be different from “regular” eggs but definitions may vary by store or producer.

Confused? You can find a comprehensive list of terms here and here.

What is a pastured chicken???
Ah, now this is an eggsellent topic! Talking with a friend from back home who has been raising chickens for years, he was pretty amused anyone would leave chickens out in the open, susceptible to predators and even more amused they’d go to the trouble of moving them around every couple of days, closing them up at night in mobile coops to protect them.

Chicken tractor #2 at Summerfield Farms

Chicken tractor #2 at Summerfield Farms

And why would someone go to that much trouble? Multiple reasons, say the folks at Summerfield Farms and other places, including health of the chicken due to a more diverse diet and space to shake their tail feathers, as well as health of the pastures from the pecking and scratching of the chickens along with the nutrient rich droppings they leave.

According to some, pastured eggs are actually more nutritious and contain:
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

Eggspert Opinion
So you have to decide what’s important to you; egg price doesn’t directly correlate with healthier, more “eco-friendly” or chickens frolicking in the sunshine eating daisies and grasshoppers. That may or may not be true. If you really want the healthiest egg and if the quality of the chicken’s life is something that concerns you, get to know your local egg provider! (Or read this blog, naturally.)

Check out local chef Jay Pierce’s great blog about eggs from Massey Creek Farms!

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