The Yolks On You

We eat a lot of eggs in our house.  Really – a LOT.  It’s not unusual for us, as a household of three, to go through 4 dozen eggs in a week.  When Beloved’s out of town, The Young One and I eat even more eggs; they’re a quick, easy and nutritious meal and we both love them.  We also love the warm weather months because pastured eggs – eggs from chickens who live outside, scratching around, eating bugs and basically doing what chickens naturally do – are pretty easy to find.  Recently, though, our more recent source was sold out so we were forced to buy eggs from our “winter supplier” – the tiny, local health food store.  There’s nothing wrong with these eggs; they’re from a local chicken farm and the laying hens are humanely raised.  But with a 30-acre farm and over 300 laying hens, which doesn’t include the broilers, I don’t believe the chickens are allowed to range very far and that their diets are heavily supplemented with grain.

Most people who keep or farm chickens supplement their feed with grain, which is fine, but chickens are omnivorous – they will, in fact, eat just about anything they come across, including small animals if they can get hold of them.  Any time you see chicken or eggs at the store with labels claiming the chickens were fed an “all vegetarian” diet, know that those chickens were eating an unnatural diet.  And probably living an unnatural life, housed in large, windowless buildings in filthy conditions (and confined to small cages in the case of laying hens), fed nothing but cheap, GMO corn and soy.  It’s really atrocious.  Oh, and by the way, be very, very wary of any claims that chickens or their eggs are “free range” or “organic” or “raised without growth hormones.”  The USDA regulations allow a “free range” label if the chickens have access to the outside (which, in some cases, merely means a single small door, left open); nor does it differentiate between the type of “outside” the chicken has access to – it could be grass, or it could be a concrete lot.  An “organic” label usually only means the chicken’s feed does not contain pesticides or chemical-based fertilizer.  “Raised without growth hormones” is basically meaningless, since the USDA prohibits the use of growth hormones in both chicken and pork.

Anyway, back to my story.  We bought a couple dozen eggs from the local health food store, but it didn’t take us long to find another good source for pastured eggs.  Being the sensible people we are, we used the store-bought eggs first since we had them.  So, I came to the end of these eggs the other night; after making one for the dog (yes, I made the dog an egg, but I make all his food – I’ll post more about that later if you like), I cracked the last two into the same bowl.  The Young One then informed me that he was very hungry, so I cracked one of the pastured eggs into the bowl as well.

And this is what I saw:

Do you see the difference?  Believe me, if the eggs on the right had been battery-produced eggs from the grocery store, the difference would be even more striking.  See how orange the egg yolk is?  How it doesn’t flatten out like the others?  The white also kept it’s shape; the whites of the other two are watery and loose.  In the winter, the pastured egg yolks will lose some of their color, going from a deep orange to a bright yellow (more like the yolk on the bottom right), because the chicken’s feed becomes more limited, but the other characteristics will remain.

The taste of a pastured egg is every bit as different from a battery-produced egg as the appearance is.  The yolks are creamier and the taste is so much more rich – as Beloved commented when I posted this photo on the blog’s Facebook page, the difference is really night and day; grocery store eggs seem anemic and bland to us now.  My brother, whose family has also gone what I refer to as “au naturale,” said his 5-year-old son recently refused scrambled eggs made from grocery store eggs, saying they weren’t “yellow enough.”

As for the nutritional value of pastured eggs – again, battery-produced eggs don’t come close, despite what the USDA and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association would have us believe.  Pastured eggs contain nearly twice as much vitamin A, twice as much omega 3 fatty acids (yes, even more than those “omega 3 eggs” at the store), 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene (aha! that explains that orange yolk), 50% more folic acid and as much as 70% more vitamin B12.  They also contain 1/3 less cholesterol and 1/4 less saturated fat, if you tend to worry about that sort of thing.

Remember the salmonella scare last year?  The risk of salmonella is very, very, very low with pastured eggs.  I had a reader take issue with that claim when I posted my homemade mayonnaise recipe a few months ago.  This person claimed their niece was hospitalized for 2 weeks because she contracted salmonella by eating French silk pie, which contains raw eggs, and that the eggs were purchased at a local farm.  Interestingly enough, when I emailed this reader to ask her some questions – such as who made the pie – it bounced back as undeliverable because the email address did not exist.  Even if this person’s claim is true, I doubt the eggs themselves were to blame; it is far more likely the conditions the pie was made in were the culprit.  Joel Salatin writes about this very thing in his book Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal – several diners at a local restaurant contracted salmonella after eating hollandaise sauce made with eggs purchased from Joel’s farm.  The eggs were seized by the local health department who then told the restaurant owner he could no longer use eggs purchased at Polyface Farm at all.  It turned out the eggs were not to blame, but the conditions in the restaurant’s kitchen that gave the diners salmonella.  It did no good; the health department destroyed the eggs and their order for the restaurant to cease using the Polyface Farm eggs stood.

So there you have it;  superior appearance, superior flavor and superior nutrition.  You’ll pay more for pastured eggs, of course, because they cost more to produce, but they are so much better than factory-farmed that they are worth it.  I was going to include a recipe for French-style scrambled eggs with this post, but it’s long enough already, so you’ll get that next week.  Happy Friday, y’all, and have a lovely weekend.

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

21 thoughts on “The Yolks On You”

  1. We have always known that pastured eggs (as you call them. we’ve always called them “the ones we got out back”) are the best. And, you really can taste the difference. Pastured duck eggs are the gold standard.

    BTW, Chickens WILL eat almost anything with the exception of raw onions and potatoes. Beyond the egg value, I used our chickens to keep our flower beds cleared of bugs and weeds and god knows what. They also do not need tons of space compared to other farm animals. One nest/roost spot per 4 chickens, a small shelter and about 100 square feet to roam per chicken. They don’t like to go to far. You also do not need a rooster. In fact, don’t get one! They are mean and really like their sex on the rough side. Roosters went into the pot around our place and our hens were happier and felt prettier for it because they had more feathers on their heads. Rooster protect the chickens in places where there are varmints. We had no need for them.

    Did you know that most cities allow the keeping of chickens? Check your local regs. In Houston you can keep chickens if you have a doctor’s note. Strange but true. I’m thinking of getting me one of those. In Seattle you can keep 1 chicken per so many (can’t remember the exact # but it’s not a lot) square feet of property. They are a very small investment, time and money, to keep.

    End of diatribe. Sorry.

    1. PLEASE don’t apologize – I loved this! And I agree, pastured duck eggs are the bomb, although we’ve only been able to find them once at a local co-op.

      Alas, we cannot keep chickens in our yard, due to a new town ordinance pushed through by a council member who was annoyed by his neighbor’s chickens.

        1. Ironically he is our former purveyor of fine spirits. So we didn’t sign the recall petition.

  2. Can you please do a How To Shop At Whole Foods post? I am unlikely to search out suppliers, but will eat/buy this way if it’s available at Whole Foods. Thank you.

    1. Well, that’s a bit problematic because the nearest Whole Foods is 63 miles away. There is a local natural foods market that is very similar to Whole Foods, called Earth Fare, that I could use as a template. Would that work?

  3. Yeah the difference is quite visible. We don’t have access to “real” eggs, unfortunately, although my wife used to get them from her grandmother and was aware of the huge difference. Michelle’s pastured duck eggs sound frickin’ awesome.

    1. Pastured duck eggs ARE frickin’ awesome.

      Why can you not find pastured eggs where you are? Is it because you’re in the city, or are local, small farms that you can buy direct from uncommon in Czechoslovakia?

      1. Yeah, because we live in the city and there’s not really a foodie movement here. There’s organic (bio) food stores, one right next door as a matter of fact, but their eggs are the same pale yellow. I’m sure there are plenty of people with chickens and ‘real’ eggs around in the countryside. But they aren’t available as far as I know. But considering the food choices from 15 years ago (the only milk in the stores used to be this UHP crap in a box) things are improving.

        (psst: There no longer exists a country called Czechoslovakia 😉 )

  4. Mmmm, eggs. Little o is loving just a simple scrambled egg with nothing on it these days. Which is great for me. We’re able to get them from the CSA for a bit extra (but you have to get there super early!)

    Just for a little extra support: LG got salmonella last year. From petting a turtle. It comes in many ways other than food. It is also a relatively new germ. It was almost unheard of 20 years ago, and our dr said before industrial egg farming, it did not exist.

    1. I knew the salmonella pathogen was fairly new – the first time I heard anything about it was in the early 80s, while my mother was making one of her raw egg “milkshakes” and scoffing at the news that the raw eggs, which she’d been eating all her life, could make her sick with something like that.

      I knew LG had contracted salmonella, but I didn’t know he’d gotten it from petting a turtle. Makes you wonder where Mr. Turtle had been.

  5. It’s downright criminal what they charge for “Free Range Organic” eggs here. 6$ for a dozen, about twice the price of battery raised eggs. If the difference is a door being left open? I’m not sure what the regulations are in Quebec. Perhaps I should look into it.
    As for the restaurant thing – food poisoning is so hard to track down. The only clues you have are from what a person ate verses the incubation time of the sickness. Even then, it’s a sketchy window of time too. People are quick to blame a resto when they get sick, not realizing that MOST food Bourne illness comes from their house. It’s when an outbreak happens that the authorities should get involved.
    Then, the FIRST place that should be evaluated is the practices of the resto. If thT is ruled out, then it’s the supplier. I’m not sure on the history of what went down on the egg story, but it sounds like a little payoff was in order. In the farmer’s defense, perhaps a campaign of people anonymously calling state health department to claim seeing roaches might get the resto what they deserve. LOL

  6. The watery/thin whites of the chicken eggs are due to either the age of the bird that laid the egg or the age of the egg itself. Older birds will lay eggs that are more watery and as the egg increases in age it will also become more watery.

    The color of the yolk is completely dependent on the amount of pigmentation the chicken eats (red and yellow xanthophylls) and not the type of food the bird has eaten (bugs etc versus grain). You can get a commercial battery egg to be as yellow as you want by supplementing the feed with Marigold flower petals. The population in different parts of the country have different views on the color that eggs and even chicken meat should be. Commercial growers cater to those views by adding marigold petals as needed to the feed. The color of the yolk is no indication of the nutrition contained in the egg.

    The cost of feed for commercial chicken is by no means “Cheap” anymore. The ethanol subsidies have driven up the cost of corn and other feed ingredients for all production agriculture. Historically corn used to run around 2.50 or 3 a bushel but it currently sitting at almost 8 a bushel. One poultry company has lost 60% of their profits in one year due to the increased cost of feed.

    By the way – My husband has a PhD in Poultry Nutrition and consequently has 10+ years of education in poultry. His research focused on the effects various nutritional regiments have on immunology (masters) and stress (doctorate). He also has professional experience in feed formulation and the effects of supplementing various amino acids, enzymes, and vitamins to the chicken corn/soy rations in order to achieve various results with meat and egg production.

    1. Rachel – I know that the watery whites are due to the age of the egg, as well as how rounded the yolk is, so it was my point exactly: the eggs we got directly from our farmer were much more fresh.

      All of this is interesting, but I must never have lived in an area of the country where the color of a commercial egg mattered; I’ve lived in the northeast, midwest and the south and have never encountered a deep orange battery-produced egg yolk. Maybe the industrial farms that delivered eggs to my particular neighborhood stores just couldn’t find enough marigold petals for their poor, abused, sick chickens?

      I do appreciate your comment – I hate being misinformed – but nothing you’ve written here counters my assertion that chickens that are allowed to roam free and eat an omnivorous, natural diet that is supplemented with non-GMO feed produce eggs that are superior to those of industrial farmed birds.

      Edited to add: “Cheap” can refer to quality as well as price. In this context, the word is fitting.

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