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.
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.
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.
- Shell strength. Healthy, pastured hens should produce eggshells that are more firm and tougher to crack than conventional eggs.
- 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.
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.
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.
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! 😉
Was any of this information news to you? Disagree with any of the points listed above? Let me know with a comment!