In light of the recent recalls of salmonella-infected eggs from supermarket shelves, the commercial egg industry is coming under greater scrutiny by many consumers.
Many people believe that chickens are raised on old-fashioned farms, with open-air yards and nesting boxes for egg-laying.
In truth, most commercial egg plants are very different.
On a commercial egg farm, the chickens are caged their entire lives. And each cage holds hundreds of chickens, all crammed together. They eat, sleep, and lay eggs, always in their cage.
From an efficiency perspective, it makes caring for the hens simpler. The feeders and waterers are automated. Eggs are retrieved automatically, and in some plants, shuttled automatically to the next phase in the process.
But the inhumaneness of this process is abhorent to many animal lovers — even those who like to eat eggs.
In 2007, Mother Earth News presented the results of a study comparing the nutritional quality of pastured hen eggs to commercial hen eggs:
Eggs from hens allowed to peck on pasture are a heck of a lot better than those from chickens raised in cages! Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. . . Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene
These amazing results come from 14 flocks around the country that range freely on pasture or are housed in moveable pens that are rotated frequently to maximize access to fresh pasture and protect the birds from predators. We had six eggs from each of the 14 pastured flocks tested by an accredited laboratory in Portland, Oregon.
The study has continued, and now shows that pastured hens produce eggs with 4-6 times the Vitamin D of commercial eggs.
If you’ve ever tasted a farm-raised egg, then you know that the taste is better, too.
We’ve been raising our own chickens in the traditional, farm-yard style for the last several years here in West Columbia SC. I don’t think I could go back to store-bought eggs.
Consider finding a local egg farmer for purchasing your eggs. There is a good one on Rt. 378 near the Target. You can walk around the yard and see how the chickens (and ducks and turkeys) live, and get some great farm-fresh eggs.
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