In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been really inspired by eggs lately. Inspired to write about them, that is! Starting off my egg-investigation, I talked about the size variety of farm-fresh eggs, as well as the difference between hatching and eating eggs. What’s next? The difference in the color of farm-fresh eggs (specifically the eggs on our homestead) vs those purchased at the (local) grocery store. Well, it all started with the crack of a couple eggs.
Can you see a difference in the eggs?
Right away, I could see the difference. The colors stood apart from each other easily. The egg from our little homestead was a much richer color and, at least to me, just looked more appetizing! Was it all a mirage, or is there some secret truth being revealed by the color difference?
Is there any evidence of a difference between farm fresh vs store bought eggs?
According to a 2007 study, conducted by Mother Earth News, testing eggs from 14 different flocks, all in different locations around the United States, the different colors can be attributed to the different nutrients consumed. Essentially, the diets play a role in the color of the egg’s yolk. When you compare the diet of a factory-raised chicken to a truly free-ranging chicken, it’s easy to see the drastic difference in the food consumed. A chicken that is allowed to roam free and spend time outdoors gets a change to consume its natural diet. A chicken’s natural diet is rich in a variety of things; insects, grass, worms and often additional food as a supplement, like chicken feed. A chicken raised in an industrial setting will never have the chance to step outdoors and peck at an insect or a blade of grass. Instead, they’ll be given the most inexpensive feed possible, often void of nutrients essential to a chicken’s healthy growth.
The study reveals that farm-fresh eggs, when compared to the nutrient data for commercial eggs, provided by the USDA, eggs from hens allowed to free-range contained:
- 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
Despite this, and other studies, done by organizations not affiliated with the American Egg Board (AEB), the USDA and AEB refuse to admit that there are nutritional differences between the eggs layed by caged, industrial chickens and those allowed to free-range. The AEB’s official stance is that, “The nutrient content of eggs is not affected by whether hens are raised free-range or in floor or cage operations.” In the end, the decision is up to you, but I believe that you get what you pay for. Spending the least amount of money on feed, keeping chickens penned up and unable to access natural light, at least in my eyes, must have an impact on the laying hen. I just can’t imagine a situation where another living, breathing animal that requires those same, basic things we need to function properly, could thrive without the right nutrients and foods, without regular exercise and light. Combined with research, and my own personal experience and opinions, I believe that the data from Mother Earth’s News’ study was accurate.
Eggs that are laid from truly free-ranging hens may be more expensive to purchase, but in the end, you do get what you pay for. If you invest in the less expensive, mass factory-produced eggs used in the studies, you’ll be getting a less nutritious version. Making the splurge to purchase a more nutritious and free-ranged egg may be a bargain in the long run.