A few weeks ago, I told one of my brothers how much I spent on a carton of eggs, and he about did a spit take with his coffee. To hear him tell it, I was spending twice as much when buying eggs as he was used to paying.
I’m not looking to spend as much as possible when I visit the grocery, but sometimes buying quality ingredients, and obtaining all of the available egg nutritional benefits, means that you have to pay a little more.
And let’s get a little perspective, it’s not like we are talking about the most expensive items in the store, I’m not in the meat department looking for some cut of steak that is going to run $30 a pound, I’m looking at eggs that will cost somewhere between 25 and 50 cents an egg!
On the less expensive end, you have your normal, run of the mill, supermarket egg. I try to avoid these, for two reasons. The first, they are less nutritious than some other options. And second, there are studies that show that supermarket eggs are much more likely to be infected due to the horrendous living conditions the egg laying chickens are forced to endure, it’s barbaric.
Some experts estimate that 95 percent of all eggs in the US are gathered from hens living in these indoor and overcrowded animal farming operations. You can be sure that these hens are not headed outside each day, living the life a chicken was designed to live, eating as a chicken might be expected to eat. And as a result, not only are the hens in these large scale operations physically scarred, but their eggs are lacking the nutrition that would normally be present if these hens were eating a natural diet.
To make some consumers feel better about themselves, their eggs and the hens that lay them, some producers also sell “cage free” eggs, or “free range”. But you had better look closely at what those terms mean, because like most labeling, it’s not as simple as it seems. While I would rank these conditions much better than the “battery caged” chickens described above, it’s not as idyllic as it initially sounds. These birds are still cooped up inside a large barn and maybe get to see the outside world for a few minutes a day. They are almost certainly not enjoying the life of a happy chicken.
All of which is why I buy “pastured eggs” when I can find them. These are the eggs that are produced by hens that are truly raised on green pastures, eating the bugs, worms, grasses and other things that hens are supposed to be eating. And it shows up in their eggs.
Studies have shown that the eggs from pastured hens, when compared to large scale commercially produced eggs, are nutritionally superior. Pastured eggs have 2/3 more Vitamin A, twice as much Omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more Vitamin E and 7 times more Beta Carotene!
And you can see the difference! The yolks on pastured eggs tend to be quite a bit more orange, signifying the additional Beta Carotene and other nutritional benefits. Can you tell in the picture which one is the supermarket egg? Cage free egg? And which one I would eat, the pastured egg?
So yeah, back to my brother, I guess for an extra 20 or 25 cents per egg, I splurge on eggs. But it’s worth it, both for my body, and for my psyche.