10 Things You Didn’t Know About Eggs

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pasteurized eggs

A few weeks ago, Farmer Paul created a facebook post that generated quite a bit of attention, both good and bad.

In the post, Paul shared his annoyance with a carton of eggs he had seen at Albertsons. On the carton, the words “pasteurized eggs” were placed directly over a large, colorful image of fresh grass and sunshine.

Don’t see what the big deal is?

Think about it this way. Do you think the hens who laid those eggs are out roaming free on pasture, pecking for bugs and fresh vegetation?

Not even close.

But do you think that many people will see those eggs, immediately fixate on the picture, and buy them thinking that they’re getting “pasture-raised” eggs?

Yes — for sure.

I can’t tell you how many people come to us wanting “pasteurized” eggs/meat, thinking that pasteurized means pasture-raised. And not knowing the difference isn’t a matter of mental constitution, as one facebook user commented. With all of the label games companies are playing these days, it can be extremely difficult to know what’s what (especially for those who are relatively new to the whole real food thing).

Not only are labels severely misguided, but so are many basic facts about eggs in general. And since I don’t really like being lied to and wasting money on fancy labels and “facts” that make about as much sense as Britney Spears’ decision to shave her head, I feel compelled to speak up about the many marketing schemes, misinformation, and lies associated with eggs.

Of course, it isn’t my job to tell you what kind of eggs to buy. But given the vast amount of public confusion on the topic, I do want to help you discover the truth so that you can decide for yourself what is (and what isn’t) worth spending extra money on.

So without further ado, here are 10 surprising things you didn’t know about eggs.

1) Brown eggs aren’t any healthier than white ones.

White eggs can be extremely nutritious just as brown eggs can be extremely non-nutritious (depending on the hen’s feed and living conditions). The ONLY determining factor in the color of the egg is the breed of the chicken.

*Interesting fact — you can tell what color a hen’s eggs will be by the color of her earlobes. For instance, a hen with white earlobes will lay white eggs, while a hen with red earlobes will lay brown eggs, etc.

2) Free-range/Cage-free doesn’t mean much.

These meaningless, feel-good terms really get my blood boiling.

Why?

Because they’re a total joke.

To see what I mean, check out this picture of an unspecified “free-range” chicken farm that we recently posted to the Primal Pastures Instagram account.

freerangechickens

Even though these chickens are living inside of a grow house packed full of 30,000 birds, they can still be classified as “free-range” if they’re given ACCESS to the outdoors. Access time is not specified and it doesn’t matter whether or not the birds ever actually go outside on fresh pasture (providing the grow house isn’t surrounded by dirt, which they typically are).

The definition of “cage-free” is even more laughable. According to the USDA,

This label indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.

Hmmm…sounds pretty much identical to the way conventional chickens are always raised — in an enclosed building with access to food and water. Definitely not an “upgrade” that’s worth an extra buck or three at the supermarket.

3)…Neither does Organic.

The Organic label certifies that the hens were fed an organic feed, free of unnatural fertilizers or pesticides — but that’s about all it’s good for.

Organic chickens can (and almost always are) crammed together in grow houses and never allowed the opportunity to go outside to act like chickens and peck for bugs and grass.

4) All eggs are hormone-free.

This would be a convincing selling point for eggs, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s illegal for poultry to be given hormones in the U.S.

In fact, egg labels that brag about their “hormone-free” status are required to follow that claim with a statement that says, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones”.

5) Vegetarian-fed isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Chickens are NOT vegetarians. They’re omnivores — just like us!

And when left to their own devices in the wild, chickens get plenty of creature protein in their diets (usually from bugs and sometimes from the remains of deceased animals).

While the “vegetarian-fed” label does ensure that the hens weren’t fed animal by-products, it also guarantees that they weren’t raised outside on grass. Because if they were, there’s no way they wouldn’t be chowing down on insects on a regular basis.

6) Dirty eggs? No problem.

At Primal Pastures, we frequently sell eggs lightly spotted with dirt and/or grass. It may seem gross to some, but there’s a reason for it.

All eggs come out with a natural protective coating called a “bloom”. The bloom seals the pores of the eggshell and protects the egg from harmful bacteria and moisture loss.

Most major commercial egg operations wash their eggs, stripping them of this natural protective barrier. Not only are these eggs washed, but often bleached (pretty troubling considering how porous egg shells are without the bloom) so that the consumer can take home a very pretty (but extremely unnatural) egg that’s more susceptible to salmonella and other pathogens.

Some conventional eggs are re-coated with mineral oil or wax in an effort to replicate the bloom. But let’s be honest — when have man-made interventions ever worked as well as the real deal?

7) Pastured eggs don’t need to be refrigerated.

Because of their bloom, unwashed pastured eggs can be safely kept out of the refrigerator for up to 3 months!

But the law does require all retailed eggs to be refrigerated (even pastured, unwashed ones) and I wouldn’t advise putting most eggs anywhere other than the fridge — unless you raised them yourself or know and trust your farmer.

8) Pastured eggs are healthier.

Eggs that come from pasture-raised hens contain 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta-carotene, and 4-6 times more Vitamin D than standard store-bought eggs (even if they’re Organic and/or free-range).

9) Watch for these 4 things.

  • Yolk color. While the color of the yolk does matter (vibrant orange yolks are generally considered to be more nutritious while pale yellow ones are thought to be the product of unhealthy hens), it isn’t everything. Egg yolk color can be easily manipulated with certain foods and additives, something that many commercial egg operations know and have been taking advantage of for years.

    In contrast, healthy pastured egg yolk colors can vary greatly depending on the season and other environmental and lifestyle factors. If you’re interested in learning more about the determining factors involved in yolk color, this article from Modern Farmer offers some incredibly interesting commentary on the subject.

  • Shell strength. Healthy, pastured hens should produce eggshells that are more firm and tougher to crack than conventional eggs.

    Since pasture-raised hens consume a diet naturally rich in important eggshell-boosting minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, and manganese), it makes sense that taking in these nutrients would result in tougher, more durable eggshells.

  • Yolk firmness. The yolks of pastured hens are generally more stable, tougher to break, and “stand up” better than their conventional counterparts.

  • Taste. Pastured eggs taste BETTER — plain and simple.

By themselves, the factors listed above don’t mean a whole lot. A broken egg yolk doesn’t always mean that your egg isn’t healthy, and a vibrant orange yolk doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

Almost all of these elements can be manipulated by producers, but usually not all at once. If you’re getting eggs from a trusted source that meets all of the requirements listed above most of the time, you’re probably in good hands.

10) Pasteurized eggs aren’t healthy.

In case I haven’t already picked on the egg company from the beginning of this post enough, I’ll go ahead and top it off — not for the sole purpose of bashing them (I doubt this post will put any kind of dent in their sales), but simply to educate and inform.

The company defines their pasteurization process as a “gentle warm water bath” that heats the egg “to the exact temperature needed to destroy all bacteria” within the egg.

The idea of killing all of the bacteria in eggs for safety reasons sounds nice, but completely neglects the innate defense mechanisms that eggs are naturally equipped with (like the bloom).

The pasteurization process also wipes out all the good bacteria within the egg (some bacteria is necessary for proper digestion) and could also have a negative impact on the egg’s vitamin and mineral content.

There’s one thing that pasteurization and the other misconceptions listed above all have in common. They’re products of a culture that continues to (unsuccessfully) try to out-do what nature has already perfected.

So instead of working against nature (and failing) doesn’t it make more sense to work with it in order to achieve optimal results — from a nutritional, humane, and environmental standpoint?

We think so. That’s why our hens spend their days running around outside, on fresh grass, foraging for bugs and worms (and they lay nutritious and delicious eggs that prove it)!

But you don’t have to get eggs from us in order to reap these benefits! EatWild.com is an excellent resource for finding local, sustainable egg and meat farms (but be sure to also do your own research on whatever farm you buy from). You may also want to consider raising your own backyard hens — a practice that’s becoming increasingly popular these days.

Whatever you decide to do, please don’t buy free-range eggs from the store. Seriously. There’s better things to waste your money on! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Was any of this information news to you? Disagree with any of the points listed above? Let me know with a comment!

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Comments

  1. Betty Fekete says

    Hello,
    Again all good information provided for people who want to know. My husband and I have been educated and we pay the extra money for the ‘true’ pasture raised chickens. Growing up around family that had farms, I find all the information you provided here to be sound and informative. Thank you for providing an alternative.

    • Bethany McDaniel says

      Thanks Betty! Glad you and your husband are already clued in – you’re definitely in the the minority! Thanks for reading! :)

  2. says

    Such a great post, it’s really informative! I know a few people I’ll be passing this along to ๐Ÿ˜‰ Cage free/free-range makes my blood boil too! I’m so thankful for people like you that are doing it right!

    • Bethany McDaniel says

      So glad you enjoyed it, Kristen! I truly appreciate your support. Can’t wait for you to visit us at the farm one day! :)

  3. Emmett says

    Good article. Another interesting point is the difference between laws concerning the cleaning of eggs in the United States and the European Union. In the US egg producers are required by law to thoroughly wash and sanatize their eggs. In the EU it is required that the eggs are not washed at all. The purpose of this is that by eliminating the washing step it forces companies to ensure a clean enviorment, since whatever gets on the egg will stay on the egg. Additionally, this keeps the egg blooms on which helps the egg stay clean and fresh longer, whereas washed eggs like those in the US have the bloom washed off.

    Since even two very powerful groups (the US and the EU) can’t seem to agree, maybe certain things should be left up to the farmers, and then the consumer can decide who they want to buy from. Well in the UK they have the Lion Mark of Quality. To be marked with this eggs have to come from farms that comply with a number of rules. For example all eggs must come from hens that have been vaccinated against salmonella. I’m not sure if there is anything like that in the US, but if there is I have never heard of it.

    You good folks at primal pastures would prbably know. Is there anyway of getting around the excessive washing and disinfecting and still being allowed to sell to consumers? From the sound of this post it sounds like you guys leave your eggs they way they are when they are layed. how does that work with the laws we have in the US?

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/nadiaarumugam/2012/10/25/why-american-eggs-would-be-illegal-in-a-british-supermarket-and-vice-versa/

    http://www.lioneggfarms.co.uk/information/british-lion-quality-code-of-practice/

  4. Sunny says

    Neighbor down the road deals with the brown bears that love chicken houses…I buy their free range, fresh, heavy shelled, intense yolk eggs from them for $4.00 a doz. Yummmm. Organic eggs from the store cost more, for an inferior product.

  5. says

    As I learn more about egg production I’m finding out the law varies from state to state. Here in Oklahoma the way I understand the law is we can not sell our eggs until they are washed in water 10 degrees warmer than the egg or no less than 90ยฐ F. Also the egg must be candled. We are washing off the bloom almost as soon as the egg is laid and then putting them into the fridge. Thankfully they do not sit around. When eggs are this fresh to candle them is almost a wast of time. It does help find cracks but a brown egg is not easy to candle. My point that I am trying to make is people or lawmakers who know nothing about eggs or poultry make up a law because it sounds good to them. I’m sure they were thinking washing it makes it clean and kills bacteria. As for the false but legal advertising of eggs as far as I know I am the only one in my area who is telling the truth about how the chicken is raised. But there are very few people selling eggs in my area other than commercial grocery stores. People are always surprised to find out they have been lied to and it was legal. Another thing that surprises me is people really do believe the color of the egg determine the taste. No mater how many times they are told they still want only brown or only white and not the other.

  6. M Soria says

    Interesting article. Lots of good info. I recently started raising chickens with the intent of having my own eggs. I am now selling my eggs, at some point to become an income. No one has questioned me whether they are organic or pasturized, free range or whatever. All they know is that they are not buying their eggs in a supermarket. They much prefer to have fresh eggs right away. The only cleaning I do to the eggs is, wipe off any pooh on them or wipe off any bedding stuck to the egg, not to disturb the bloom

  7. TheManFromTaco says

    This is all well and good…

    But I buy that very brand of pasteurized eggs (from my local Whole Foods Market, no less) because I use raw eggs in protein shakes all the time, and I want to remove any risk of salmonella poisoning.

    So what would you suggest?

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