Who doesn’t enjoy chicken eggs in one form or another. Over the decades, eggs have gone from being good for the body, to being demonized and back full circle again to being a healthful food. The real facts about chicken eggs are not easily obvious, and here, I will attempt to shed more light on this subject.
Reading an egg carton is certainly confusing, as we are given many choices, yet all appear to be “farm fresh” eggs along with free roaming, free range, vegetarian fed, organic, natural, Omega 3, antibiotic free, fertile, etc.. When we see, free range or roaming on an egg carton, our minds conjure an open field full of chickens enjoying the outdoors and sunshine. However, reality is something else entirely. The USDA allows producers to use these terms as long as the chickens are not kept in small pens or battery cages, where many chickens are allowed in one small cage. Most of these eggs come from chickens that are in large indoor factories with just one small open door leading to the outside. This means chickens that are cage free have access to the outdoors, but doesn’t necessarily mean that they go outdoors and get sunshine so necessary for vitamin D production. If the chickens don’t get vitamin D, neither will you get it in their eggs. One way to assess this is by the hardness of the eggshell, the harder the shell, the more likely the chickens were outdoors in the sun.
In nature, chickens eat mostly bugs, worms, compost, grass and dirt. Feeding chickens grains is not natural to the chickens, yet in factory farming, even for vegetarian eggs, chickens are fed mostly soy and corn grains, most of them being GMO. One hopes that the organic eggs are from chickens fed with organic feed and grains to say the least.
Organic eggs are what many people look for as best for their health, but let’s look at what organic can actually mean for eggs. Large farm “organic” eggs means that the chickens are usually jam packed in tight spaces with little movement. Their feces is all over the ground, yet these chickens are not fed antibiotics, therefore, they live in a breeding ground for disease. Due to these unclean conditions, the USDA has mandated that all organic eggs be bathed in cleaning agents and chlorine. Since the eggshells are porous, chlorine and other chemicals can easily enter the eggs and stay there until eaten. This punishes the true organic egg farmers that allow their chickens total access to pasture and “real” chicken feed. The main difference between “pastured” versus “commercial” organic eggs is in their nutrient content. According to Mother Jones research, pastured organic eggs versus commercial organic eggs have:
5 times the vitamin D content
66% more vitamin A
2 times the omega 3 content
3 times more vitamin E
7 times more beta carotene
1/2 the cholesterol
Clearly, getting to know where your eggs come from has a lot to do with your health. Unknowingly, most consumers also don’t know that commercial egg producers give arsenic laced feed to their chickens to kill parasites and increase the weight of chickens, but resulting in diabetes and/or partial paralysis in humans.
My recommendation is to either know the farmer that provides your eggs, purchase eggs at the farmer’s markets, or buy truly pastured organic eggs at the health food store. Major grocery chains sell organic eggs as well, but most likely they are sourced from commercial factory egg farms. If you have true pastured, high-quality pecking chickens, the eggs are best not refrigerated. However, once refrigerated, the eggs need to stay refrigerated. Eggs come with a protective coating on the outside of the shell that keeps bacteria out and helps seal in nutrients. That coating is broken when eggs are washed or refrigerated.