Eggs are one of the trickiest foods at the grocery store.
Labels like “cage-free” (which means nothing), “free range,” “pasture-raised,” etc. make it difficult to know exactly what you’re buying and which brands of eggs are best.
If you have heard that naturally-raised, pastured eggs offer you a better bang-for-your-buck, even at $5.00 a dozen, that is true. Even better than organic eggs (because the hens usually aren’t getting grass and bugs as I will show below). Hens on pasture with bugs, seeds and worms produce eggs that are better for us humans nutritionally, and it is the best for the hens.
As it turns out, all those lower-priced $-a-dozen, commercial eggs at your supermarket aren’t providing you or the chickens much of a choice at all. Eggs are another example where extra care for the laying hens pays big dividends for you, the consumer, and it is also more sustainable for the chickens and the land.
Why Pastured, Free Range Eggs
Mother Earth News collected samples from 14 pastured flocks across the country and had them tested at an accredited laboratory. The results were compared to official US Department of Agriculture data for commercial eggs. Results showed the pastured, truly outdoor free-range eggs contained an amazing:
* 1/3 less cholesterol than commercial eggs
* 1/4 less saturated fat
* 2/3 more vitamin A
* 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
* 7 times more beta-carotene
Other Health Benefits of Truly Free Range Eggs:
* High levels of choline which are required to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and is also a component of cell membranes. Choline is especially important for pregnant women. Low choline intake can raise the risk of neural tube defects and lead to decreased cognitive function in the baby. And one study of pregnant women found that only 23% reached the adequate intake of choline (15). The best sources of choline in the diet are egg yolks and beef liver.
* Eggs contain high-quality proteins with a perfect amino acid profile.
* Eggs improve your cholesterol profile and do NOT raise your risk of heart disease
* Eggs Are Loaded With Lutein and Zeaxanthin, Which Protect the Eyes
* Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on earth!
One large egg contains (1):
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): 9% of the RDA
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA
- Vitamin A: 6% of the RDA
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 7% of the RDA
- Selenium: 22% of the RDA
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s labeling for poultry products can be misleading. For example, the labels “free-range” and “free-roaming” chicken simply require producers to demonstrate that the birds had access to the outdoors (but the hens may not know they can get out).
In most hen-laying facilities, the food is given inside (thought they could get out), the hens stay inside close to their food supply so miss the sunshine, freedom and green food and bugs of pasture.
EGG BRANDS YOU CAN TRUST
Check out these Family-Scale Farm eggs and more by visiting the Cornucopia Egg Scorecard here. Look for family egg farms in your area. Here are a few:
1. Mission Mountain Organic Farm – the Best in Free Range
Their hens lead a serene life with a natural bug and seed diet supplemented with certified organically grown, natural, non-soy grains on a free-choice basis. They comply with the strict organic standards set by the USDA and are annually inspected for compliance to be 100% “certified organic” in this small family operation.
Nationally available from small flocks on grass in Montana. Rated tops at 5!
2. Backyard Eggs (By Vital Farms)
Eggs from pasture-raised and truly free range hens are the most nutritious and tastiest in my opinion. Backyard Eggs provide at least 108 square feet of pasture per bird, so the hens have a huge amount of space to roam and eat grass, bugs, worms, etc. (eating these little critters are what make the egg yolks so golden).
Backyard Eggs are also Certified Humane, and Non-GMO Verified (this is a big deal since most non-organic hens eat GMO feed). Cost: $5.99/dozen
3. Vital Farms (our favorite pastured, organic free range!)
Backyard Eggs and Vital Farms are products from the same company, but the Vital Farms eggs are Certified Organic. The hens are raised in the same way according to similar standards, but all their pasture and feed is organic.
Vital Farms eggs are more expensive, but you are guaranteed eggs from hens who have never been exposed to pesticides or antibiotics. Cost: $4.99/dozen
Vital Farms sell highly nutritious organic eggs raised by healthy, humanely treated chickens. If you can’t raise your own chickens, these are the best we know of.
Cornucopia Egg Scorecard & Resources for Great Eggs!
And for a comprehensive list of the highest rated eggs visit the Cornucopia Egg Scorecard. This scorecard took six years to produce and ranks 136 egg producers on 28 different criteria – it is still updated regularly. (Note: the best eggs are not distributed nationwide, so look in your area on the list!)
You can also check with the APPPA, American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, then you can look up by your state. You will be buying from a local farmer directly.
Check Eatwild’s Pastured Products Directory to find free range and pastured eggs near you.
A NOTE ON COST
Eggs are still one of the best food values there are.
If you’re buying eggs for less than $4.00-4.50/dozen, odds are very good that your eggs come from inhumanely treated hens. It costs a lot to raise hens in the right way, which is why great eggs are priced higher than most regular grocery store eggs. Paying more for eggs guarantees you a better product and your farmer a fair wage, plus ensures better animal and environmental welfare.