I found this article on MSNBC yesterday and I wanted to post a link to it because I think it’s really important. In light of all the egg recalls in the news you may be wondering what types of eggs you should buy. Here’s the link to the article:
Here are a couple of quotes from the article that resonated with me:
More than 90 percent of U.S. eggs come from caged hens. These birds have a space smaller than the size of a sheet of paper to move around, and live in filthy conditions. Aside from animal welfare concerns, that’s bad for our health, too, Pennsylvania State University shows, because researchers recently found eggs raised on pasture are much more nutritious than eggs from their caged counterparts.
I cannot fathom or tolerate the living conditions of caged hens. It is straight out animal cruelty and I don’t understand why our government allows it! And if you choose to consume eggs and don’t care about animal welfare, the nutrition benefits are still a good reason to seek out local, free-range eggs and avoid caged eggs.
In an ideal situation, you would purchase your eggs from a local farmer in your area who raises chickens on pasture with plenty of space per bird, and uses moveable, open-air chicken houses, sometimes called chicken tractors, to protect the birds from predators. (You can look for this type of farmer on LocalHarvest.org.) Of course, you could also raise backyard chickens, if you have what it takes.
Personally I think it would be neat to have backyard chickens that provided eggs. I actually have the space for it in my backyard. My neighbor two houses down has chickens (I can hear his rooster crowing all day long). The problem is that I could never, ever kill the chickens for meat. So once they stopped laying eggs they would just become my pets, roaming around the backyard, living out the rest of their lives. Which would be fine except that eventually the non-laying hens would become too numerous and I would end up with a hen sanctuary.
Since I don’t raise my own chickens I have to buy eggs from the farmer’s market. The first thing I ask the farmer is “do your chickens get to run around?” I phrase it just like that. I want to know how the farmer raises their chickens. I want to know that the chickens are not kept in cages and are allowed to hunt and peck and act like chickens. One lady said “yeah they get to run around. They run around all over my porch.” Well that’s good enough for me. In a perfect world I would go visit the farm and see the chickens. Maybe someday I will be able to do that.
The MSNBC article gives definitions for the following terms: cage-free, free-range, organic, natural, pastured, omega-3 enriched, and certified humane. I suggest reading through these definitions so you can learn more about what these terms mean with respect to eggs. It’s not always what you think.
In my opinion the best eggs you can buy are from your local farmer. Second best would be organic eggs. Organic eggs come from hens not kept in cages with access to the outdoors. The hens are fed organic feed and are free of antibiotics and pesticides. Mostly importantly annual inspections are required.
But organic eggs are expensive!
Yes organic eggs are very expensive. I’ve seen them for $4-5 per dozen. Here’s my solution to that problem: eat less eggs. Instead of buying 3 dozen for $1.50 each, buy one dozen for $4.50. Stop using eggs for baking because you don’t really need them anyway. There are tons of egg substitutes. My favorite is the flax egg, which is very inexpensive. Only use your eggs for eating directly, such as scrambled, fried, hard boiled, etc.
I don’t want to get too high on my soapbox so I’m going to stop right here. My main point is to educate so people can make the right choice for their own lifestyle. I hope the article was helpful in answering some egg questions.
So what are your thoughts on eggs? Have the recent egg recalls made you reconsider your egg purchases or consumption?