Hey, this is Melissa Kirby, one of Dustin’s blog contributors.
What do you think about when you pick up a carton of eggs?
I wonder how the chickens that laid those eggs are treated. Did they spend their days scratching and pecking for bugs outside in the sunshine or were they crammed together in a dark barn where they could barely move? The latter is not only inhumane, it degrades the quality of the eggs as well. Dustin proves this point in a previous post he did on nutrition in eggs.
Free range eggs in the Madison area cost between $3 and $4 for a dozen versus the $1 to $2 for “supermarket” eggs. The difference in the quality and flavor are well worth the price difference.
The only way to know if you are truly getting free range eggs are to buy them from a farm who’s practices you are familiar with. I get my eggs from Daval’s Bison Farm or Keene Organics. Search for local farms in your area and ask them how they care for their chickens. Farmers markets are good places to find vendors.
If you have to buy your eggs from a grocery store here are some things to look for:
- Chickens are not vegetarians. They eat bugs, grubs and grass. If the carton says “vegetarian fed” they are not given access to the outside (no, a concrete pad does not count as “outside”).
- The color of the egg shell depends on the type of chicken laying the egg, not how they were fed.
- The more orange the yolk the more nutrients it contains.
- Companies like to play with wording.
- “Cage Free” is a term not regulated by the USDA. It means the chickens are not confined to a pen. They can still be stuck in a barn.
- “Free Range” means the chickens had SOME access to outside. What exactly that means is not clearly defined.
- “Organic” only means the chickens were given organic feed.
Hopefully these guidelines give you a more clear understanding of what to look for when egg shopping.
I have really only scratched the surface (pun intended)on the issues relating to farming and marketing practices surrounding the egg industry.