Are Store-Bought Organic Eggs The Real Deal?
- Published on: 20 April, 2015
- Last update: 10 August, 2017
A lot of people have asked me if eggs are healthy, and if so, where they can find the best brand.
The truth is that eggs have the potential to either be a powerhouse of nutrition, or a dose of inflammation. It all depends on how the hens are raised. Animal products have gotten a bad rap the past few years, prompting many people to give them up completely. Unfortunately, in America, 99% of the animal products sold in stores are indeed bad for you. Not inherently – but simply because of the way they are raised!
Our ancestors used to eat a wide variety of animal foods ranging from eggs, to liver, to bone broth… even lard. My great grandparents lived longer doing this than anyone I know. So why is everyone sick and unhealthy today?
Here’s what happened: It takes a lot of land, time, and care to properly raise animals on a farm. Greedy companies started factory farming animals in abominable, large scale operations to shorten this process and raise profits. They traded all of the quality for massive quantities.
Chickens used to soak up Vitamin D all day from the sun. They ate worms, bugs, and wild, nutrient-dense seeds. But today, conventionally raised chickens are cooped up in tiny spaces with no room to breathe. Even “cage free” chickens seldom see the sun and are force fed a “vegetarian” GMO grain diet.
One day I found out from The Cornucopia Institute that unfortunately, “organic” hens also get very limited grass time. They are all too often crowded in small spaces due to large operations, and are fed an unsuitable grain diet (even though it’s organic grains).
“Some of the factory farm operators literally raise millions of birds (both conventional and organic) with as many as 85,000 “organic” hens in single buildings.” –TCI
Even the organic, large-scale companies (the brand name eggs you see sold in Whole Foods, for example) are just following bare minimum standards while feeding the animals organic grains. This gets costs down and pushes small family farms who are doing things the right way out of the market! Hens are not supposed to eat grains, and need constant sunshine/room to roam. The current mass-farming operations make for unhealthy, pale yellow eggs with low nutrition and high omega-6 inflammatory fatty acids.
I always thought I was safe buying organic eggs until two summers ago, when I lived in London. That’s what made me research this topic. I shopped at a tiny family farm store where eggs were delivered daily from the English countryside. When I cracked one open, I almost screamed! The yolk was a deep, red-orange that sat up firm and tall. The taste was incomparable. I felt so much energy after eating them. What was so different?
Do you ever notice how other countries eat the same foods we do, yet age gracefully and live long?
– “The Omega Diet” study found that Greek pastured eggs contain 13 TIMES more omega-3s than U.S. commercial eggs! WHAT?! (Simopoulos, The Omega Diet, 1988)
– The British Journal of Nutrition found that pasture-raised eggs contain 70% more vitamin B12 and 50% more folic acid. (British Journal of Nutrition, 1974)
– Pasture-raised eggs are 10% lower in fat, 34% lower in cholesterol, contain 40% more vitamin A, and are 4 times higher in omega-3s than standard U.S. battery-cage eggs, and pasture-raised chicken meat has 21% less fat, 30% less saturated fat, and 50% more vitamin A than that of caged chickens (Gorski, Pennsylvania State University, 1999).
Long and Alterman (2007) attribute the dramatic differences to the fact that pasture-raised hens consume a natural, omnivorous diet that includes seeds, worms, insects, and green plants – and they get a lot of sunshine. A true pastured egg is loaded with Vitamin A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, choline, DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA.
Where can you find real, pasture-raised hen eggs?
As I explained, even though the label says that the eggs are “certified organic” or come from “cage free” or “free range” hens fed a “vegetarian” diet (chickens are NOT vegetarians!), there is no guarantee that the hens had access to the outdoors or pasture—which makes all the difference in the quality of the egg. In fact, there is absolutely no regulation on what “cage free” or “free range” means.
When I got back to the U.S., it took 3 months before I ate an egg again because I realized even my ‘organic’ eggs came from a large-scale factory-esque farm. I made it my mission to stop supporting this practice and find a local farmer who could show me his farm and provide humane, deep orange eggs.
I went to this database of raw grass-fed milk farms: http://tiny.cc/farms, clicked on my state, and found that almost all farms that offer raw milk also offer pasture-raised eggs. This database became my #1 resource for finding small farms that raise animals properly. I visited a few until I found a co-op and an Amish farm that I liked. You can also go to your local farmer’s market and ask the to see how the chickens are raised. Look at the color of the yolk. Don’t settle for low quality, inflammatory animal products that will hurt you in the long run. 99% of what’s in stores has been monopolized by large scale operations. Support a local farmer today!
If you want even more options, you can go to Eat Wild and find a farm through their database as well. And lastly, if there are truly no other options and you have to go storebought, check out this Organic Egg Brand Scorecard to help you choose a healthier, more humane egg. Their excellent chart rates organic egg producers from “exemplary” to “ethically deficient” so you can know who’s doing the bare minimum and who’s going the extra mile.