Excellent Eggs: Farm Versus Factory

ImageEggs tend to get a bad rep for being fat traps or high in cholesterol, but many studies show that they are worthy of super food status.  Eggs contain all the nutrients to sustain a growing chicken so they actually offer an abundance of health benefits.  They are essential to a healthy diet because they provide a number of different antioxidants and vitamins along with a significant source of protein.ImageImage

In order to get all of an egg’s health benefits, you can’t skip out on the yolk.  Although egg white omelets are popular you just don’t get all the same nutrients as you would from eating a whole egg. Choline, for example is found in the yolk and it is necessary for brain function.  Lutein, also found in the yolk, helps prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.

The antioxidants in eggs, such as selenium, help strengthen your immune system.  Eggs also provide significant levels of omega-3s, folate, vitamins B, A and E, which fight against different forms of cancer and promote healthy skin, bone tissue, and good vision.

Eggs are definitely worth adding to your diet; however, don’t be alarmed by the growing collection of eggs at the grocery store. Recently, I decided to investigate the difference between this overwhelming variety of eggs.  It turns out that the real difference comes down to farm fresh eggs versus factory farm (or conventional) eggs.

Advertising has done remarkably well convincing consumers that one egg in the grocery store is better than another.  For example, the delineation between a cage free egg from the grocery store and a Grade A egg is now blurred. The “cage free” chickens might have a narrow window to access minimal outdoor space.  Not to mention that the outdoor space may be covered in concrete. This is enough to alter the egg’s packaging and image in the consumer’s head about where their food is coming from. Now supermarket’s free-range eggs are essentially the same as battery raised. The industrialization of organic food has become the same as conventional.

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You can keep eggs up to 6 weeks after they have been laid – this is difficult to determine with conventional eggs; however, local fresh eggs you might be able to know a more specific time frame of when they had been laid.

ImageWhile this might not be the case for every conventional egg, just like most food that we buy in a grocery store, it is impossible to know the exact source. Choosing the best option, even for something as simple as eggs leads to a complex decision.  Now we have egg cartons promoting vegetarian diet, organic, all natural, omega 3, pasteurized, conventional…the list goes on.

Today something as straightforward as buying eggs has become such a political and involved decision – should I buy organic or conventional? Is it worth the extra money? The industry has tried to compensate the high demand for organic, all natural, vegetarian diets that along the way they began processing food exactly the same as conventional products. While they are spending so much time commercializing eggs, that are often no different than conventional, they ignore answering simple questions like, “should chickens even be vegetarians?”

Chickens, naturally are not vegetarians, so why are we forcing them to be? A genuine farm-raised chicken eats a varied diet including bugs and insects.  It gives their eggs a richer taste.  It is no surprise that people rave about the taste of a farm fresh eggs.  Farm fresh eggs have a infamous, distinct flavor that are superior to the mild taste of conventional eggs, because they come from healthy chickens eating a varied diet.

Conventional eggs pose a higher threat of salmonella, because there is a greater risk of receiving an egg from an unhealthy chicken. The factory environment breeds unhealthy chickens, which go on to produce unhealthy eggs that are then collected. Factory eggs are also washed in a chemical baths, which often penetrate the eggs’ shells.

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While the greater risk of salmonella and chemicals applies to most conventional foods, conventional eggs prompt a more ethical question. Is it fair to mass produce eggs and then market them as different products? No, but we do anyway. The only way to be certain of where your eggs are coming from is to buy farm fresh eggs (the next best thing would be to by welfare approved, but they are difficult to find).

Genuine cage free (farm fresh eggs) boast a staggering 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta-carotene, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acid.

You will notice an immediate difference once you crack it open into a bowl, because the yolk holds together firmly, without breaking, and is often a deep orange hue (a result of their diet).  The whites are clearly separate from the yolk and have a clear, not cloudy appearance.

So why not just buy farm fresh eggs? Well unfortunately it’s not that easy. Since the price of farm eggs can be astonishingly three times more than conventional eggs it eliminates the option for many people and causes others to wonder is it really worth it?

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Farm egg on the left, conventional egg on the right.

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My family cannot buy farm fresh eggs every week as much as we would like to. In our house between my brother’s breakfasts and baking we easily go through 1 1/2 dozen eggs a week. I tried to convince my parents that we should build a chicken coop in our backyard, but they were not thrilled with the idea. So instead, if we have the opportunity to buy reasonably priced farm fresh eggs, we do. There is certainly a noticeable difference.

While it is more of a challenge to find them now in the winter months, farm fresh eggs are almost always available at farmer’s markets from late spring to early fall. If you do invest in farm fresh eggs you can feel good knowing that you are supporting local businesses and agriculture while advocating animal welfare.

For a great side-by-side comparison of different eggs click here and here.  

Sources:
"The Benefits of Farm Fresh Eggs." The Blender. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.
"The Beauty of Farm-Fresh Eggs and How to Source Them." Simple Bites. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.
"Farm Fresh Eggs vs Conventional Factory Farm Eggs – a Photographic Comparison." Farm Fresh Eggs vs Conventional Factory Farm Eggs – a Photographic Comparison – The Tasting Buds. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.
"Why Are Eggs Good For You? An Egg-ceptional Superfood." Authority Nutrition. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
"Eggs: Nutrition Comparison Between Factory Farmed and Free Range." Gaia Health - Information for You and the Welfare of Your Children. Heidi Stevenson, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.