Understanding Your Eggs

understanding your eggs

The eggs you are purchasing from the grocery store may not actually be as high of quality as you think they are. Unfortunately, marketing gimmicks abound in the produce world, so many times consumers expect their eggs are coming from birds raised in open green spaces…when the reality is likely VERY different. This makes it vital to have an understanding of your eggs and where they are coming from. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, seeing a visual of your egg and poultry scenario could be a real game changer.

Keep in mind, that as consumers, we have a responsibility to know and understand where our food comes from. Yes, those cheep conventional eggs might be convenient, but when consumers purchase these products we are not just feeding our families. Every purchase supports the systems that are producing the food itself. We are what we eat and our purchases entire food production systems. Make sure you are supporting the right farms and production methodologies.

1 – Conventional Eggs

  • Caged their ENTIRE life (usually killed at 9-10 weeks if they are a meat bird, or 1 year if a laying hen)
  • NO access to sunlight
  • NO exercise
  • NO access to grass, soil, or bugs
  • Essentially treated as a machine
  • Low quality feed
  • High use antibiotics and medicine, because the birds are prone to sickness and disease under these conditions

NOTE: Conventional eggs can also be sold as “ORGANIC”. However, that only means their food doesn’t have pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides in it. “Organic chickens” or “No anti-biotic birds” are often raised in the same setting as that pictured above. This is actually MORE dangerous for consumers, because since the living conditions are so bad – the birds are often sick. So in this case, the lack of antibiotics actually makes them even more dangerous to consume.

2 – Cage Free Eggs

  • Raised indoors / barns (often concrete or sand floor)
  • Very little exercise
  • Very little space to move
  • Overcrowded living conditions
  • NO access to grass, soil, or bugs
  • Essentially treated as a machine
  • Low quality feed
  • Little or no human interaction
  • High use antibiotics and medicine, because the birds are prone to sickness and disease under these conditions

3 – Free Range Eggs

  • Raised indoors / barns (often concrete or sand floor) with LIMITED access to sunlight or actual soil. Just because they have “access” to it does NOT mean they get to enjoy it, because an average barn has 10,000 birds in them.
  • Very little exercise
  • Very little space to move
  • Overcrowded living conditions
  • LIMITED access to grass, soil, or bugs
  • Medium quality feed
  • High use antibiotics and medicine, because the birds are prone to sickness and disease under these conditions
  • “Organic” eggs that are in these condition are likely coming from more “diseased” birds, because they are in such over crowded conditions. In these conditions, disease is common, so the antibiotics are actually helping control sickness.

4 – Pasture Raised

This is the phrasing we should be looking for when purchasing our eggs. Even better “organic pasture raised”.

  • Raised outdoors with access to sunlight, soil, insects
  • Lots of exercise
  • Open space to move around
  • Cleaner living conditions
  • FULL access to grass, soil, or bugs
  • HIGH quality feed
  • LITTLE or NO use of antibiotics because birds in these conditions are generally healthier.

Why are Organic Pasture Raised Eggs so Expensive?

  1. Food cost for organic feed is often 3x higher than conventional and medicated feeds. However, the quality ingredients are whole grains and foods instead of a cheaply made corn mush (with synthetic supplements).
  2. There is more human connection (time commitment) involved in pasture raising animals. These animals are often being supervised for predators, checked for disease, and getting social time with their owners. The human connection helps ensure the birds are “happy”, but also HEALTHY! Having humans eyes on them multiple times a day allows farmers to ensure the health of their flocks and in turn – your eggs.
  3. The USDA charges an insane amount of money to be “certified organic”.
  4. Pastures need to be reseeded and maintained so they have enough biodiversity for the birds to eat.
  5. Birds on pasture are often “rotated” to new areas daily, so they have a fresh supply of greens, insects, and soil.
  6. Many farms who are pasture raising their livestock are also using other biodynamic practices (adding probiotics to the water, composting systems, giving birds vegetable overstock to supplement feed). This results in a healthier eggs and meat, but also ensures that the farms ecosystem is healing the land and building soil structure.
  7. Animals raised on pasture are often cared for more attentively during summer heat and winter cold. When the birds are less “stressed” they produce a much higher quality egg / meat.
Organic PASTURE RAISED chickens enjoying a fermented feed treat with whole grains, probiotics, and live mealworms and soldier flies. For a FREE recipe on making this fermented goodness…CLICK HERE

Understanding your eggs

As you head to the grocery store (or better yet… FARMER’S MARKET) next time, consider giving your family the best and get “organic pasture raised eggs”. Yes, they will cost a couple bucks more, but you can be assured you are not only providing quality eggs for your family, but also supporting an ethical food production system. Whenever possible, try to purchase eggs and meats locally at a farmer’s market or co-op and support local farms in your area that are using practices that you believe in.

Remember, many local farms will actually let you visit (and bring kids), so you can see where your food comes from. This can be a priceless, fun, and educational experience for the entire family. Connecting ourselves again with our food helps us not only appreciate what we consume, but also support ethical practices in the food production system.

Our choices as consumers matter.