The ongoing debate between pasture-raised eggs vs. conventional grocery store eggs is one we’ve quietly argued for years. We’re not ones to guilt or shame anyone for their egg choices; if you want to buy conventional eggs because they’re less expensive, that’s your right as a consumer. We would be remiss, however, to not, at the very least, offer a little insight into the benefits of eating pasture-raised eggs over conventional.
To start, it’s important to understand what meaning your grocery store labels actually carry. In other words, what is the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised?
Cage-Free is a term that was used in the early stages of egg industry awareness as a wildly convincing marketing scheme. Intended to ease the troubled minds of egg consumers, the term is meant to paint a picture of humanely-treated free-roaming chickens, unlike those in a conventional, caged environment. Unfortunately, the term ‘cage-free’ can only be taken at its most literal. While these chickens aren’t raised in teeny tiny wire cages, pressed up against one another, they’re simply packed into cage-less, overpopulated hen houses (think over 100,000 chickens in one house), typically debeaked, underfed (to promote mulching, which manipulates the laying cycle), and living in abhorrent conditions, steeping in their own filth and waste at all times.
Free-Range can be considered the next tier of eggs. Raised in conditions that nearly mirror those of the cage-free chickens (debeaking and all), the only requirement for those labeling their chickens as ‘free-range’ is that the chickens have been ‘allowed access’ to the outdoors. Legal terms make no specifications about amount of outdoor space nor longevity of time spent. Of course, these allowances can vary from farm to to farm but typically, their roaming liberties are bleak.
Pasture-Raised eggs, colloquially referred to as “real eggs,” are laid by chickens who, yes, actually live in open pastures! Pasture-raised birds are brought into their coops at night for protection from predators but otherwise spend their time freely roaming with plenty of room to wander, graze, and spread their wings. While the amount of space needed to raise larger numbers of chickens in a pastured environment greatly increases the farmer’s expenses and, therefore the price of the eggs, the payoff is extraordinary (or should we say eggs-traordinary?).
In addition to the benefit of supporting the humane treatment of egg-laying chickens, pasture-raised eggs have actually proven to be more nutritious than conventional eggs. Mother Earth News reports that pasture-raised eggs contain 6-7 times the amount of vitamin D, twice as many omega-3 fatty acids, 1/3 of the cholesterol, 2/3 more vitamin A, and 3 times more vitamin E as compared to conventional eggs. This is not only a direct reflection of the healthy lifestyle that these chickens are allowed, but a result of eating a more natural diet from grazing in fields and feeding on plants and insects in addition to their grain feed.
Then, of course, there’s the flavor. Ask most anyone who has transitioned from conventional to fresh pasture-raised eggs and they’ll tell you that pastured eggs are not only richer in flavor but have a creamier texture.
No, there isn’t scientific evidence to prove that they taste better than conventional eggs but what can easily be proven is that pasture-raised eggs are almost always fresher. Consider this: conventional eggs will sit for a few days before being packed, then get transported (across state lines, typically), and then sit on grocery store shelves for an average of 2-3 weeks before they’re purchased. When all is said and done, your looking at nearly 3-4 weeks passing between when the eggs are laid and when you bite into your omelet. When you buy locally-sourced, pastured eggs (like all of the eggs at Farmhouse Delivery), they are almost always laid within 2-7 days of arriving at your door.
If you’d like to learn a little more about cage-free vs. free-range vs. pasture-raised eggs, we couldn’t recommend this video more. Made by Lexicon of Food, this short video takes a stylish yet informative approach to explaining the basics. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!