This was just going to be an instagram post, but then I went down the rabbit hole of the internet. My IG post became too overwhelming and it turned into a blog post. I was inspired by the photo above when I went to make eggs the other morning. It is winter now. The days are shorter and my backyard ladies are on a laying hiatus. When I supplement our egg supply, I usually pay the extra few dollars to get pasture-raised eggs. Sometimes they are not available, in which case, I always buy certified organic eggs. These eggs are from two separate cartons: eggs from a pasture-raised variety and eggs that are certified organic.
Keep reading to learn which egg is which.
Healthier eggs have always been at the top of my list when deciding to KNOW where the food I am eating and feeding my family comes from. When it comes to meat, I let other people do the hunting. However, backyard chickens and gardening was something I could dive into.
Why are the eggs from pasture raised hens more orange?
Pasture-raised hens have access to outdoor pasture, with fresh clover or grass, and plenty of insects to supplement their diet. Chickens are omnivores and eat insects, such as worms, grubs, mealworms, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, ticks, and spiders. This balanced diet gives them bright orange yolks. The grain-fed hens lack in diet diversity giving their yolks a lack luster yellow that is typical of an egg from a commercially-raised hen or a hen with limited or no outdoor access.
Is an orange egg yolk really better?
I will write about health before humanity.
In 2010, Penn State conducted a study that compared the nutritional content of eggs from pasture-raised hens to eggs from commercially-raised hens. Lead investigator and associate professor of crop production ecology, Heather Karsten, referred to the results as “striking.”
“Compared to eggs of the commercial hens, eggs from pastured hens had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids,” she said. “Vitamin A concentration was 38 percent higher in the pastured hens’ eggs than in the commercial hens’ eggs, but total vitamin A per egg did not differ.”
Pasture-raised hens have access to outdoor pasture, with fresh clover or grass, and plenty of insects to supplement their diet. Chickens are omnivores and eat insects, such as worms, grubs, mealworms, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, ticks, and spiders. This balanced diet gives them bright orange yolks. The grain-fed hens lack in diet diversity giving their yolks a lack luster yellow.
Egg Buying Decisions
This is a typical mass produced egg operation. There are multiple hens to a cage. They cannot spread their wings or act like a chicken in its own environment would act. The hens eat and drink by slipping their heads through the bars of a cage. Year-round, artificially lit warehouses keep egg production regular and constant.
Eggs from Cage Free Hens
Hens are not in a cage. However, many of these producers let hens roam in overcrowded, constantly lit barns or warehouses. I guess you could assume it is less stressful for the hens to not be in a cage, but I have not asked them.
Eggs from Free Range Hens
This only guarantees that poultry have the “opportunity” to go outdoors. Most eggs labeled as “free-range” come from hens confined indoors on the floor rather than in open pasture.
Certified Organic Eggs
Hens are uncaged inside barns or houses, with outdoor access required. There are no hormones or antibiotics in the raising practice. The hens’ diet is free from synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. However, some producers that are certified loosely follow the standards or are inconsistent. For example, some producers may not provide birds meaningful access to the outdoors.
Eggs from Pasture-Raised Hens
It is assumed that “pasture-raised” means the hens have primarily outdoor access where they are free to be a chicken and forage for insects, plants and grasses. First, I always go for the local pasture-raised option. Secondly, I can recommend Vital Farms. I have been on the site and always see a bright orange yolk come from their eggs from pasture-raised hens. They are California-based and have are “certified humane.” They self-proclaimed as “bullsh*t free.” I like their style and their commitment.
Look for these labels when buying your eggs. It is not only a healthier, but also a more humane choice.
I thought a copy of the FACT (Food and Animal Concerns Trust) Pocket Guide to Humane Food Labels would be useful to download. After all, if you are reading this, you most likely care about where your food comes from. Download Here.