I recently gave my 5-year-old a little pop quiz about eggs, and I am proud to say she passed with flying colors. Why don’t you give it a shot too? Okay, see the picture of the raw eggs on the right. Which one is different? I hope you picked the same one that she did…the one that is obviously more yellow and less orange in color than the rest (on the right-hand side of the bowl). Believe it or not, all of these eggs are organic. The yellow one that is different (and coincidentally not as nutritious) just happens to be an organic egg from the grocery store instead of one from the farmer’s market like the other three.
According to Michael Pollan, “you are what you eat eats too” meaning that:
The diet of the animals we eat has a bearing on the nutritional quality, and healthfulness, of the food itself, whether it is meat or milk or eggs…some of our food animals, such as cows and sheep, are ruminants that evolved to eat grass; if they eat too many seeds they become sick, which is why grain-fed cattle have to be given antibiotics. Even animals that do well on grain, such as chickens and pigs, are much healthier when they have access to green plants, and so, it turns out, are their meat and eggs. For most of our food animals, a diet of grass means much healthier fats (more omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA; fewer omega-6s and saturated fat) in their meat, milk and eggs, as well as appreciably higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants.
So that sheds a little more light on the bright orange eggs in the picture versus the yellow one. The orange colored eggs from the farmers’ market come from chickens that are fed green plants in addition to a diet of grains. The color that you see is the beta-carotene (the same thing that makes carrots look orange) from green grass and “it’s worth paying the premium they typically command.” For all those moms (and dads) out there just think about how certain measures are taken to control the diet of a breastfeeding mother since it can directly affect their baby…in the case of the animals’ food products that we eat, it is basically the same concept. So to ensure you are buying healthier eggs from the chickens that eat right they should be labeled as “pastured” meaning from chickens that spent time hanging out in a nice green pasture (not to be confused with “pasteurized”). And beware, because if a carton says the eggs are from “free range” chickens that doesn’t necessarily mean they were roaming free in a green pasture…it could have just been a big dirt field.
So once I was armed with this new information I went to 3 different grocery stores and could not find any cartons that said “pastured” eggs. To be honest, when I was asking the people who worked at these stores if they had “pastured” eggs I got the feeling they didn’t even understand what I was talking about. So I started to think I must have read that part in the book wrong, but when I went back to look sure enough it said to buy “pastured” eggs. And as it turns out these eggs do exist because I finally found them at our local farmers’ market – where coincidentally they fully understood what I was talking about! Since I go to a growers’ only market I could ask the farmer who actually raised the chickens themselves what they were being fed. I would have thought you were crazy if you told me I would one day be in a farmers’ market asking what they feed their chickens! But, this is what it has come to if you desire to fully understand what you are putting into your (and your family’s) body – because just as Michael Pollan said “you are what you eat eats too!”