By Mike Jones, Farmer/Owner of Tierra Verde Farms
Healthy Eggs: What We Knew in 1932
In the 1930s, scientists and food producers were creating the first plans to take poultry off family farms and raise them in confinement. To enact their plans, they needed to create “feed rations” that would keep the birds alive and productive even though they were denied their natural diet of greens, seeds, and insects. It was a time of trial and error.
In a 1932 experiment conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, breeding hens were taken off pasture and fed a wide variety of feed ingredients. When the birds were fed a diet that was exclusively soy, corn, wheat or cottonseed meal, the chickens didn’t lay eggs or the chicks that developed from the eggs had a high rate of mortality and disease. But when birds were fed these same inadequate diets and put back on pasture, their eggs were perfectly normal. The pasture grasses and bugs made up for whatever was missing in each of the highly restrictive diets.
Vitamin D Content
Eggs from hens raised outdoors on pasture have from three to six times more vitamin D than eggs from hens raised in confinement. Pastured hens are exposed to direct sunlight, which their bodies convert to vitamin D and then pass on to the eggs. Vitamin D is best known for its role in building strong bones.
New research shows that it can also enhance the immune system, improve mood, reduce blood pressure, combat cancer, and reduce the risk of some autoimmune disorders. This good news about eggs comes from a study released by Mother Earth News, a magazine that plays a leading role in promoting health-enhancing, natural foods. The editors found that eating just two eggs will give you from 63-126% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. Note that this benefit comes only from hens that are free to graze fresh greens, eat bugs, and bask in the sun.
Most of the eggs sold in the supermarket do not meet this criterion. Even though the label says that the eggs are “certified organic”, come from “uncaged” or “free-range” hens, or come from hens fed an “all-vegetarian” diet, this is no guarantee that the hens had access to the outdoors or pasture. Look for eggs from “pastured” hens. You are most likely to find these superior eggs at farmers’ markets or natural food stores.
The Many Benefits of Pasture Raised Eggs
As it turns out, all those choices of eggs at your supermarket aren’t providing you much of a choice at all. Recent studies conducted by Mother Earth News magazine have shown once again that eggs from chickens that range freely on pasture provide clear nutritional benefits over eggs from confinement operations. 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 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
I wrote this blog to answer the question that so many customers ask, “Why are our eggs different?” It’s because our hens are pastured. It not only makes a significant difference in nutritional value of the eggs, as I have documented here, but it also makes a big difference in how they look.
Since our hens get fresh greens, they end up with 7 times the beta carotene, as documented by Mother Earth News. You remember beta carotene? It’s in carrots. It’s what makes them orange. So when you are wondering why commercial egg yolks are pale yellow and our eggs yolks are deep yellow to orange, you are actually seeing the nutritional difference. You are seeing vitamins and minerals. The most significant difference is taste, but you will have to try that for yourself.
It is a wonderful thing to find out that you can eat great tasting food that is good for you and contains less bad fat, more good fat, and more vitamins and minerals. It’s a win-win!
About Mike Jones
Mike Jones and his wife Connie are the owners of Tierra Verde Farms located in Deerfield, Ohio. They have been in operation since 2010. On their farm, they raise grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, chicken, turkey, and eggs. They also have honey and maple syrup. Their farm p3hilosophy is simply to farm holistically – marry the priorities of the land, the livestock, the farmers and our nutrition. Mike is a weekly attending vendor at our farmers’ markets.