We hear all the time that pastured eggs are better, but what exactly makes them better?
For starters, a big difference is how the hens that lay the eggs live, especially the conditions they are raised in.
Pastured hens spend their days outdoors foraging for bugs, seeds, worms and more. Hens are free to embrace their natural instincts to forage, scratch, take dust baths and more, leading to a happier bird.
Not only do conventionally raised hens have zero access to the outdoors (no foraging or scratching) they also have their beaks clipped so they cannot peck each other. The pecking often stems from mental frustration from the suppression of natural instincts. Hens living in these conditions have 67 square inches of space allotted per hen, less than a letter size piece of paper.
Conventionally raised hens spend their lives next to as many as 100,000 other hens in the same barn. The barns are typically only cleaned between batches of hens.
Chickens raised by the tens of thousands in a conventional setting are an environmental hazard.
Air Quality- Ever drive by a chicken barn on a hot summer day with the windows down? I don’t recommend it. I feel bad not only for the birds and the workers, but also for the neighbors living nearby. In addition to the noxious smell, there are also contaminates such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen oxides.
Water Quality- Nature never intended thousands of animals to live in a small area their entire lives. Having this many birds in a single area causes environmental degradation. Water quality is negatively impacted when run off contaminates drinking water and watersheds.
Feed quality is also poor, hens are fed all sorts of waste products, including:
Couple this with corn, soy and/or cottonseed meal that is genetically modified and sprayed with chemicals and you have a less than nutritious feed.
Contrast all of that to the hen that gets to spend her days foraging on pastures and embracing natural instincts. The result is a healthier and happier hen that produces a nutritionally superior egg. Pastured eggs are an incredibly nutrient dense food. Mother Earth News sent pastured eggs from 14 different flocks from around the country to a lab for testing, then compared the data to USDA data for conventional eggs. Here’s what the data shows:
Pastured eggs have:
Because a chicken has a short digestive tract, they can rapidly absorb dietary nutrients. Egg nutrient levels are responsive to dietary change. Research has shown that all the fat soluble vitamins, including A and E and unsaturated fats are egg responsive, and that a hen’s diet has a definite impact on nutrient levels in the egg.
Pastured hens provide other benefits, being out on pasture they spread manure without any machinery needed. When following cattle, they offer something called ‘pasture sanitation’. They eat hatching fly larvae before they have a chance to cause problems or spread disease. Ever see the birds in Africa hanging out on a rhino’s nose? Same concept, the chickens eat the insects that the cattle attract.
You may have noticed that eggs from a pastured chicken are a vivid orange color, indicative of a higher level of nutrition and antioxidants.
The next time eggs are on sale at the store for $0.67, understand what it took to get an egg that cheap. Not only are you supporting industrial agriculture, but you are missing out on a great source of nutrients.
Welcome to Willow Farm's blog! I'm Kyle, farm manager and all things marketing