Eggs have endured years of controversy. Demonized for their cholesterol and saturated fat content, eggs (especially yolks) have been stricken from the diets of heart patients and diabetes patients for decades. Despite shaky evidence (at best) that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat lead to heart disease or weight gain, this treatment of eggs has become the convention in the biomedical world.
The truth is that the egg is a magical, wonderful, complete food. It’s a great source of important nutrients that should be part of any healthy diet including omega 3s, fat-soluble vitamins, and antioxidants. In fact, cholesterol and saturated fat should ALSO be part of any healthy diet, contrary to popular belief, as they are vital for proper brain function, hormone production, and cellular integrity.
Unfortunately there’s a catch.
Not all eggs are created equal. Some eggs are far superior to others in the density of the nutrients I just listed, while the inferior eggs are laid by mistreated, debeaked hens who are literally fed insecticides to mitigate their atrocious living conditions (insecticides that surely end up in your grocers’ conventional egg cartons).
The Pastured Egg
You may have noticed a new category of eggs gracing the shelves of your local market — the pastured egg. Chickens laying eggs on pasture are not just free to roam inside a crowded barn with dirt floors (cage-free); they’re free to bask in the sun, scratch at the dirt to find grubs, eat green plants, and walk away from their own excrement at their will. They are not debeaked, fed antibiotics or insecticides, forced into ridiculously tight quarters, or denied sunlight (vital for vitamin D production in the eggs). Eggs laid by chickens on pasture are several times more potent in nutrients than their factory-farmed counterparts, because they are living the lives a chicken is meant to lead, eating the foods a chicken is meant to eat.
Knowing where your food comes from is a major step in taking charge of your health. Too often we’re so far removed from food production that when we get to the market, we let only the price tags guide us. I encourage you to stop and think about the practices employed to get food on your table each day — especially animal products — and to use THAT as your guide instead. At the end of the day, the slightly higher price will right itself 20-fold in the form of less doctor’s visits and a reduction in chronic diseases that require expensive maintenance.
Check out this infographic to find out how these delectable bright orange-yolked eggs measure up to their factory-farmed counterparts. You might be surprised at what you learn. (click on the infographic to open it in a new window)
Be sure to check back next week for an awesome frittata recipe that features pastured eggs from backyard chickens in Santa Rosa!
Typically you can find pasture eggs at farmers’ markets, but it’s also a good idea to make friends with someone who raises chickens in their backyard, find a local farmer who raises chickens (easy to find on the side of the road in many parts of rural California), or order them from a farm like this one. When I buy eggs at the store, I look for Vital Farms eggs — here’s a great map tool to help you find Vital Farms eggs near you.
Have you seen pastured eggs at your local grocery store? If not, do you know where to find pastured eggs in your area?