You read Part 1 last week about the differences between free range, organic and cage free eggs. Now that you’ve got your background information down, let’s talk about the very best of all egg options: the pasture-raised egg…
Behold the Pasture-Raised Egg:
These little guys live a great life. While pasture-raised hens have little cubbies to lay eggs in, they spend most of the time pecking around outside as they have for thousands of years. They nibble on all the bugs, earthworms and other critters that enhance their nutritional content and flavor along the way. The better quality food the hens eats, the better their eggs become. In fact, you’ll find that to be true in general with all food.
As a result, the yolks are usually a gorgeous golden orange color, the whites are crystal clear, and when cooked, the whites are soft instead of the normal rubbery texture we’re use to from conventional eggs. I eat at least two a day.
From a nutritional standpoint, although the USDA maintains the position that “all eggs are equal”, there is much independent research that proves otherwise. In pastured eggs, the levels of betacarotene can be 7 times higher (which gives the yolk that rich golden color instead of the normal pale yellow), Omega 3′s are at up to 21 times higher, and levels of vitamins A, E & D are also significantly increased as compared to conventional eggs.
Check out the chart at the bottom of this Mother Earth News article with nutritional statistics. The levels of each nutrient may vary from farm to farm depending on breed and diet, but however you slice it, they’re packed with better things for your body compared to a factory-farmed egg.
Why isn’t everyone eating pastured eggs?
Well, there are a few hurdles…
Let’s the get shock-and-awe part over with here: pastured eggs should cost between $7.00 and $8.00 a dozen. This seems expensive, but after what you’ve just learned about how they’re raised, it’s no surprise that why we are used to paying closer to $3.00 a dozen. I believe that you get what you pay for, and if eggs are under $5.00 a dozen, I always have to wonder why.
There’s another problem with pastured eggs…they’re a little hard to find, and they go through ups and downs with production based on the weather. Finicky little girls…they don’t like the extreme heat or the extreme cold, so they sorta go on strike during these times!
In a commercial large egg facility, you can control the lighting and temperature…giving you predictable results: consistency, but not in a natural way. Yesterday, the farmers market opened at 2pm sold out of pastured eggs at 2:15. Just be prepared for shortages. Pastured eggs usually last at least 4-6 weeks, so buy a few dozen at a time when you can find them.
Here are some suggestions on how to get your hands on pastured eggs:
- Local farmers markets: The best place to find them! One word of caution: don’t assume that they’re pastured-raised just because they’re at the market; ask the farmer about how they’re raised and what they’re fed.
- Natural food stores: Check natural grocers near you. In the East Bay, my Whole Foods here in Oakland just started carrying my favorite Rolling Oaks Ranch eggs (Yay!), Berkeley Bowl, Three Stone Hearth, Berkeley & Alameda Natural Grocery usually have a steady supply. In the city, check places like Bi-Right or Rainbow Grocery or your neighborhood natural grocer.
- Local butcher shops: pick up some of your grass-fed beef or pastured pork while you’re there!
- CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture): those great veggie delivery boxes that I talk about. There are several CSA’s that sell pasture-raised meats and offer pastured eggs as an option.
- The best site I’ve found so far to find pastured eggs in your area is Local Harvest. Just type your zip code on the right hit search. You can also narrow it down to just CSA’s or farms, and give them a call to find out more information.
So to summarize, if pastured eggs are hard for you to find (or not financially viable), then organic, free range eggs are the next best thing. If you can find them from a somewhat-local source, than all the better. And remember guys, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Buy a dozen pastured eggs once a month if that’s all you can do…it’s still a great step in the right direction.