You may never view store-bought eggs in the same light as you once did after you read this. Many people will tell you, “an egg is an egg.” However, commercial chicken eggs are not the same as fresh farm eggs. Let’s take a closer look at free range eggs vs store bought!
Commercial Eggs Are Very Different From Farm Fresh Eggs
In today’s chicken egg industry, chicken farmers raise mass quantities of egg layers that lay at prolific rates. Some of these chickens may even be hybrids that have been genetically altered to lay heavily.
However, commercial laying hens are stuffed into battery cages or indoor buildings which never feel the sun on their back, nor do they experience the joy of free-ranging and foraging.
So, how does this affect the overall health benefit we get from eating grocery store eggs?
63% of eggs laid here in the U.S. are from commercial laying farms. The likelihood of you purchasing eggs in a store that came from a commercial farm is very high. From an ethical perspective, knowing the environment is less than ideal for laying hens should cause us to pause and consider where our eggs come from.
Additionally, eggs from a commercial layer vs. that of a free-ranging, foraging, happy chicken are going to differ. Let’s take a look at what the differences are.
For a look at the best egg laying chicken breeds, see this article.
A Look At Commercial Eggs And Free-Range Eggs
A study conducted by Rutgers University (Dr. Brower, Dorsey, Malvetti, and Fagan) documented findings on the overall quality (taste and nutritional value) of commercial eggs vs. free-ranging/foraging eggs. Eggs produced by free-ranging chickens were found to be lower in cholesterol, higher in nutrients, and much more tough and lean compared to commercially produced eggs.
What Defines Commercial Eggs And Free-Range Eggs?
The environment in which a hen is kept is typically how the egg industry defines the type of eggs you buy in stores.
However, consumers are often misled into thinking buying eggs that state “free-ranging” or “cage-free” are better than other brands. The goal is for consumers to assume the eggs come from ethically raised chickens in a healthy environment.
Commercial (Conventional) Eggs
Hens raised solely for the purpose of commercial egg-laying are fed a diet of corn and rarely have the opportunity to forage on anything else. This type of diet was not intended for long-term healthy chickens.
“Cage-free” eggs simply imply hens are not kept in battery cages but rather a building void of windows or access to the outside. They are allowed to freely walk around with massive groups of other hens.
“Free-range” eggs imply hens have access to the “outside” of a cage. They may be allowed to walk around inside of a large indoor building with other hens or a very small outdoor area which may not be deemed free-ranging.
“Organic” eggs can also be misleading, tricking consumers into thinking they are getting eggs from hens fed a wholesome diet. Those eggs came from hens that are most likely fed a poor diet of corn only.
Fresh Farm Eggs
Free-ranging hens forage on insects and plants. Their owners typically feed them a high-quality feed that encourages strong, healthy eggs and healthier chickens. These hens enjoy a diet that is either completely natural or as natural as it gets.
“Farm fresh” eggs are typically sold by small flock owners who allow their chickens to free-range and forage from sun up to sundown. Farm fresh is the real deal when it comes to “free-range” eggs. Limitations in having access to the sun, outdoors, and space are not things you’ll find here.
By purchasing fresh farm eggs, you get “cage-free,” “free-ranging,” AND “organic” all in one!
Factors That Influence The Taste And Quality Of Eggs
Numerous things can affect how eggs will taste. When hens are encouraged to be at their best, they will supply you with the best eggs. However, when raised in a hostile, less than ideal environment, they will produce eggs much lower in quality.
True free-ranging hens forage on insects and plants, which lend to the vibrant orange yolks. Farm fresh eggs are, as the name implies, “fresh!” Commercial eggs, however, could very well be up to 60 days old. Fresh eggs will have a distinctive difference in yolks which stand higher, and white which are much tighter.
- Exposure to the outdoors, sun, and fresh air
- Disease-free flock
- Right breed in the right climate
- Nutritious diet
- Allowed to forage (and free-range if possible)
- Clean conditions of coop/run
- Hens housed in battery cages or buildings void of windows and fresh air
- Diseases run rampant in massive flocks, so more medications are administered
- Fed a poor diet
- Extremely limited in foraging and doing what chickens love to do
- Less than ideal conditions due to massive flock size
- Unethical handling and treatment of hens
Why Do We Need To Eat Eggs?
So, now that we’ve “enlightened” you on the differences between commercial eggs and farm eggs let’s look at the health benefits of eating chicken eggs.
Health Benefits Of Eggs
Did you know there are benefits of eating two eggs daily? Most of us don’t realize the vital role chicken eggs play in our diet and health. Eggs are much more than a few “sunny-side ups” on a breakfast plate.
You may be surprised to see what a powerhouse one little egg can be!
The yolk and whites of an egg are nutrient-dense and packed full of vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin A (vision, skin)
- Vitamin D (bones, teeth)
- Vitamin E (cell production)
- Vitamin K (blood clotting, bones)
- Vitamin B1 – Thiamine (energy, nerve function)
- Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin (energy, cell function, growth)
- Vitamin B5 (metabolism)
- Vitamin B6 (sleep, mood appetite)
- Vitamin B9 (cell renewal)
- Vitamin B12 (nerve development, red blood cell production)
- Phosphorous (bones, teeth)
- Calcium (bones, muscles, nerve function, blood clotting)
- Potassium (muscles)
- Sodium (nerve function, muscles)
- Copper (nerve function, bones, metabolism)
- Iron (lungs, blood)
- Magnesium (bones, muscles, nerves)
- Manganese (metabolism)
- Selenium (inflammation, heart)
- Zinc (metabolism, digestion)
If we enjoy two eggs a day, we get up to 30% of our daily vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to thrive and be healthy.
Egg Intake Limitations
You may have heard here and there that consuming too many eggs isn’t good. So, why are chicken eggs bad for you? Well, they aren’t unless you have to watch your cholesterol intake.
Although eggs are nutrient-dense, the yolks contain cholesterol. The recommended daily intake of cholesterol is 200-350mg a day. Eggs and egg products account for about 25% of that daily intake.
Researchers claim that daily egg consumption should only be limited by those with cardiovascular disease and comorbid conditions that include diabetes and high blood pressure.
One egg contains 186mg of cholesterol which is in the yolk.
Healthcare professionals recommend patients with cardiovascular disease (with diabetes, high blood pressure) limit their daily egg intake to 300mg or less (about 1 ½ eggs.) The egg whites, however, can be consumed to your heart’s content!
Information on pasteurized eggs can be found here.
The Last “Cluck”
We don’t know about you, but farm-fresh eggs are certainly much more appealing than those on the shelves in stores. Remember, those labels on the egg carton at your favorite grocery store want you to think you are getting something healthy from an ethical environment.
Perhaps that short drive out to your local egg farmer is worth it after all. Thanks for stopping by our site and Happy Chickening!