It’s easy to see why eggs have always been a major pillar of the great Canadian breakfast scene; they’re nutritious, incredibly versatile and delicious to boot! I mean, Frittata or Eggs Benny anyone?! Yes, please!
Having studied holistic nutrition, and having grown up on a steady diet of eggs myself, I like to think that I know a thing or two about these spherical, healthy champions of breakfast!
Now while it’s true that many of us Canucks often start our day by crackin’ open an egg or two, many of us aren’t actually aware of the ways in which livestock is reared, and what that could mean for the foods that we consume! In this specific case, establishing an understanding of the ways in which eggs make the transition from farm to table can help us realize that rather than just being a necessity to live, consuming food is an experience that should be enjoyed and help us live nourished healthy lives.
It’s therefore, integral to differentiate the real difference between free range and factory farmed eggs. Let’s get crackin’, shall we?!
There are several key factors that distinguish free range eggs from factory farmed eggs:
- Factory Farmed Eggs: Hens are kept in roughly 67-76 square inches of space, are not able to stretch out their wings or move about (which often leads to broken bones), fed antibiotic-enriched foods, and unable to access the outdoors.
- Free Range Eggs: Hens are kept in open barns, uncaged, with access to the outdoors and the ability to graze – a more natural diet.
So free range undoubtedly sounds like the obvious, more humane method to rear and raise hens correct?! Yes, correct! There’s just one slight problem, there isn’t a third party inspection or verification program in place to ensure that the standard of living for free-range hens are met. Meaning that despite cartons of eggs touting the notorious “free-range” labels, that’s not necessarily what’s happening and many of these hens are not living the quality life we think they are.
So what’s a devout, egg guzzling gal or guy to do?! Do your research and look for labels!
The only way to absolutely, 100% guarantee that you’re consuming eggs from free range, “happy hens” is to purchase certified organic or certified local sustainable eggs. By purchasing eggs from a recognized, certified organic organization, you can trust that these hens are fed antibiotic and additive free food, as well as provided with humane living conditions. This is because organically raised hens are not fed with antibiotic-enriched foods, therefore farmers MUST maintain healthier, safer and cleaner living conditions so that the hens don’t become ill! You can trust that this ensures that hens will be given nest boxes with minimum space requirements, as well as time spent outdoors! AKA TRUE free-range hens!
What about the color of egg yolks?
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As you know, egg yolks and eggshells can come in different colors. Some white, some brown. However, regardless of an egg’s size or shell color, its nutritional value and quality are determined by the hen’s breed.
The color of egg yolks, on the other hand, is completely dependent on a hen’s diet. While this may surprise you, farms are not permitted to add artificial color additives to their eggs.
Foods That Create Darker Yellow-Orange Egg Yolk
- Green plants
- Yellow corn
- Other plant material with xanthophylls (a pigment that produces the yellow-orange hue)
Foods That Create Pale Yellow Egg Yolk
- White cornmeal (which produces almost colorless yolks)
Naturally, free-range hens tend to have access to strong-colored foods which is why that type of hen produces darker egg yolks.
Now if you still require even more grounds to make the ol’ switcheroo over to organic, free-range eggs… here are three arguments you definitely CAN’T argue with!
3 Reasons to Invest In Free Range Eggs
1. It’s Humane
There’s no question about it; free-range, certified organic hens are a more humane alternative to the two rearing options. Free range, organic hens have the ability to lead a more natural life that allows them to enjoy the outdoors and peck or graze in the grass. This type of whole lifestyle allows for a more versatile, nutrient-rich diet which produces healthier eggs. Long story short: Happy Hens = Happy Eggs = Healthy Humans AND Hens.
Unhealthy, factory farmed hens that are not fed a quality or nutritious diet will not translate to nutrient-dense eggs. It’s just that simple.
2. They’re Nutritious…
Not only are the standards of welfare considerably higher with pastured, free range eggs but the levels of nutrition are shown to be more significant as well!
Ever wonder why free range eggs are notorious for their rich, orange yolk? It’s due to the high levels of lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotenes – which are lacking in conventionally raised hens due to poor diet!! These two, potent antioxidants help to support and protect the eyes, among several other wonderful health benefits!
Hot Tip: Analyzing the color of the egg yolk is actually a little trick that can help you determine whether or not you’ve purchased eggs from a legitimate farm that claims to raise free –range hens! Eggs with a richer/darker, more orange yolk are likely more nutrient dense (because of increased levels of beta-carotene), and therefore are likely living a more whole, nourished life.
HOWEVER many non-free range farmers add marigold or other sources of carotenoids to the feed to give it a darker color. So although the egg yolk color can help you double check your eggs’ true source, it’s not a definitive test.
Not to mention, several studies (1,2) have shown that when compared to conventionally raised hens, free-range eggs also contain more:
- Vitamin D (6 times to be exact!!!)
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- Omega-3 fatty acids
These health benefits can undoubtedly be attributed to the more holistic and varied diet and lifestyle that free-range hens are able to enjoy!
3. … And Delicious!
It’s not just a myth my friends. As farfetched as it sounds… it’s TOTALLY true! Organic, free range eggs absolutely do taste better! Well, at least in my personal experience! A couple of weeks ago, while my boyfriend and I were vacationing up North he had actually experienced the amazingness that is organic, free range eggs for the FIRST TIME EVER!!!
To be completely honest, I’ve never seen my boyfriend rave so much about a single piece of food well, since… EVER! His eyes practically lit up and he enjoyed his breakfast oh so much, describing the texture as light, yet creamy and full of flavor! Not to mention, completely easy on the stomach!!
From nutrition to living conditions to taste, organic, free-range eggs will always be far superior in comparison to their conventionally raised counterparts. Wouldn’t you say that it’s time for all of us to raise our egg-spectations on rearing methods? I’d say so.
This amazing post was created by Brittany Linton, a holistic nutritionist in training, and social media marketing professional in the natural, whole foods industry! We encourage you to check out here website here and follow her on Instagram and Twitter!
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