I am getting new chickens this week and can’t wait to have pastured eggs in my house again. We had about 10 chickens last year, but unfortunately a mink killed all of them. It was horrible and sad. I think it traumatized my daughter Ella who went out to collect eggs one morning and came across the massacre. Then, my neighbor witnessed my husband tossing dead chickens over the hill behind our house. I am sure that was a sight.
All winter, I have been buying my eggs at the stores and trying to find the best possible choices and trying to figure out what is worth the extra cost. I thought I could share a post about what I learned in this process.
First, chickens like to roam and spread their wings, not live in cages with prohibitive space to move. Chickens are also omnivores and love to eat greens, bugs, and enjoy a good day of hunting and pecking in the dirt to forage for their food. So, the best possible choice is from your local farm or farmer’s market. This is the number one choice if at all possible. Eggs from pastured flocks contain two times more omega-3 fatty acids, four to six times more vitamin D, two-thirds more vitamin A, three times more vitamin E, and seven times more beta-carotene than conventional factory farmed eggs. One study I read said that pastured hen eggs had 170 percent more energy-boosting B12 and 150 percent more folate than the commercial eggs.
If you don’t have that option, or like me, just use too many eggs and always run out of my local sources, you need to know what is worth buying at the store. Here are some labels that they put on eggs.
USDA Certified Organic– These hens must be fed organic, non-GMO feed, free of both antibiotics and pesticides. The chickens must be kept uncaged in barns and warehouses and they must have outdoor access. (They don’t regulate how much though.)
Pastured-raised– This is not regulated but implies that the chickens were raised most of the time, roaming free in pastures. This creates a more micronutrient-rich egg.
Cage-free– The chickens aren’t in cages but don’t have access to being outside. It really isn’t as great as it sounds since they can’t peck in the dirt.
Free-range– This is basically the same as cage-free, but they are allowed some yard-time. This may only be a few minutes a day unfortunately.
100 Percent Vegetarian-fed– chickens are not vegetarians, they like bugs so the is not their natural diet and their eggs are depleted essential micronutrients. It does guaranteed that the chickens did not eat animal by-products in their feed and this is a good thing, but they definitely need bugs in their diet.
Natural or Naturally Raised– this means nothing!!! Don’t be fooled by this claim on any food product. It is just a way to get you to buy the eggs and implies they are in wide-open pastures but they are not.
Omega-3– I found conflicting research on these eggs. As long as it is not advertised as Omega-3 eggs and is pastured then it got it’s Omega 3’s from the insects and bugs, not from flaxseeds. Dave Asprey, who I respect and trust, has said to not ever buy the eggs labeled “Omega-3 eggs.” This is a quote from his blog. “The problem is that omega-3 oils can and do oxidize relatively easily and oxidized oils of any form isn’t very good for you. The way they make omega-3 eggs at most farms is they take flaxseeds, flaxseeds that are not suitable for human consumption and they feed them to the chickens and the chickens make these omega-3 eggs with incredibly pale white yolks. An old farmer friend visited the US not so long ago and saw an omega-3 egg, cracked it, looked at it, and said, “Was this chicken sick? I’ve only seen eggs like this from a sick chicken” and the answer was, “Yeah, the chicken was sick.” Chickens weren’t meant to eat a high-flax diet and they can barely produce eggs on those diets. Flaxseed oil isn’t particularly good for chickens or for people because it oxidizes so easily.”
Because of this, I don’t personally buy the Omega-3 eggs anymore. You can get the omega-3 more naturally from the eggs that are pastured and don’t actually have Omega-3 on the label.
The are some of the brands that I recommend and buy if you don’t have a local source of pastured eggs.
Vital Farms or Alfresco Farms– organic, Pastured-raised
Organic Valley– extra large organic brown eggs- organic, cage-free
Egglands’ Best organic– organic, cage-free
>The Country Hen– Organic, cage-free
Kirkland eggs– Organic eggs, cage-free, organic feed. These are Costco’s brown eggs in the clear container. They are convient for me since I go to Costco every week. It isn’t as good of choice as pastured eggs but this is what I buy if I can’t get any from my neighbors that have chickens.
AVOID– All eggs not in shells, including all liquid or powdered eggs. All eggs using meaningless claims like natural, no hormones, and United Egg Producers Certified.