Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
Eggs have gotten a lot of press over the years- “they are bad for you, they are good for you, nope-they are bad, well, we take that back, they are good again”. The assumption that dietary cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease is false. There have been many, well-designed studies done which prove that eggs, including the yolk, are good for you and do not increase cholesterol or cause heart disease. Cholesterol in eggs is dietary cholesterol, not the cholesterol that is measured in blood tests. Dietary cholesterol has no impact on blood cholesterol. Saturated fats influence blood cholesterol levels more. Overconsumption and the quality of the eggs should be more of a concern than these health issues.
Eggs are a nutrient rich food, providing an excellent source of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. The yolk especially works to keep your brain healthy. The yolk contains essential fatty acids, which are necessary for proper brain and eye function, healthy skin, hair, libido, reproduction, growth and response to injury. Eggs are a complete protein and contain the “good fats”. Complete protein foods contain all of the essential amino acids, which our bodies need for healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. High quality eggs can contain omega-3 fatty acids, which work to lower the risk of cholesterol. Therefore, when people only eat egg whites, they are literally throwing out these needed essential nutrients.
I invest in my health by buying high quality food. I do pay extra upfront for pastured eggs. I try to buy eggs from the farmer’s market, but they sellout pretty fast. Remember, the massive egg recall in 2010? That kind of stuff usually only happens in factory farming. Pastured eggs are higher in nutrient value and come from healthy, happy hens. Pasture-raised hens are raised on pasture and fed grass and whatever else is on their pasture. You can see the richness of nutrients by the color of the egg yolk, usually a dark yellow to orange. This is because pastured eggs have more beta-carotene and vitamins. Though, the color of the yolk does vary from the changing seasons and pasture availability. Hens naturally lay eggs in the spring, when there is more daylight and greener pastures. Even the eggs shells are all different hues, but mostly due to the breed of the chickens. These eggs come from one farm that usually has a variety of breeds, so you will get a variety of sizes and colors in the carton.
The less fortunate hens are confined in cages that are too small for them. They are cramped in and have a variety of physical issues. The cages are also stacked up on top of each other. This poses many health dangers for all of the hens in the factory farm, which in turn poses risks for consumers of these eggs. These factory-farmed hens are given antibiotics and hormones (usually without the supervision of a veterinarian) to survive these filthy conditions and grow bigger and faster. The results of this kind of farming are cheap poultry and eggs that cause environmental degradation and antibiotic resistance. In short, cheap foods come with a high cost to people’s health, animal welfare, and the environment.
Free-range and cage-free eggs are significantly different from pastured eggs. Free-range and cage-free are less regulated terms. Free-range means that the chickens may have access to the outdoors. Cage-free chickens are not locked up in battery cages, but they still maybe overstuffed in large hen houses with thousands of other chickens. The term organic in this concern means that the feed was organic, hens cannot be raised in cages, molting must occur naturally, and antibiotics can only be given in the case of an infectious outbreak. Thus, organic eggs are better than non-organic eggs. You can checkout the score of the organic eggs you buy here.
There is also significance to the phrase “farm fresh eggs”. Eggs do have a long shelf life when stored properly in the fridge, but they are not nearly as good as eggs that are recently laid. Truly farm fresh eggs are no more than a week old. Sometimes, the farmers do not wash these eggs so it is better to wash them at home. The pastured eggs at the farmers markets are probably only a few days old, but you can ask the farmer directly to be certain.
When hens in factory farming lay eggs, there is a shipping and handling process. These eggs go to a plant, where they are washed in ammonium or chlorine, graded, and placed in the carton. So by the time they get to the grocery store and by the time you bring them home, they could be already a couple of weeks old. Check the numbers on the egg carton to verify freshness of the eggs. There should be three sets of numbers on the carton. The long set of numbers indicates the plant/factory from which they came, the sell by date is the expiration date, and the three digit number is the Julian date the eggs where picked. In Julian date, the date is read starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365. Today’s date is April 4th, so the Julian date is 094 (94 days into the year).
Obviously, all of these points factor into the cost of the eggs. Factory farmed eggs are really cheap and pastured eggs are expensive. To make the right choice for you and your family, you have to weigh what is important to you when you feed your family. Again, I value the quality of the eggs and invest in the health of my family and myself. Pastured eggs also contribute to my sanity, knowing that I made a choice that is environmentally and ethically conscious. We eat fewer eggs per week, limiting to one carton of pastured eggs and increase the intake of vegetables, lentils, and beans. Even though we are eating fewer eggs, I am guaranteeing we are getting more nutritional benefits and superior flavor.