This journey has been a slow one for us. We raided our pantry of hydrogenated oils, switched to 100% grass-fed organic milk and tried to go as organic as possible with our produce, but there were (and still are) some things we haven’t changed yet. I knew for the longest time that we needed to find a different method of buying eggs, but I hadn’t done the research yet. I believe, in my head, that since I didn’t know the specifics of why we should switch, I didn’t feel super passionate about it yet. I was convincing myself that we didn’t need to change until I had learned more.
Eggs are CHEAP. Everywhere. $.99 for a dozen eggs is really hard to pass up. We eat eggs every day, so I knew we would take a hit on our budget.
I waited a REALLY long time to do the research on eggs, mainly because I knew once I did, there was no turning back. I was right. I took the book Real Food with me on our flight to Vegas a few months ago and when I finally got to the chapter on eggs, threw my hands up in disgust and told my husband we were not allowed to eat regular eggs anymore. His response? “Why did you bring that book on a vacation to LAS VEGAS?”. My poor husband.
While the idea of an industrial poultry farm grosses me out and I knew without doing any research that a pastured-raised egg was going to be better for us, I was shocked at how much better.
What made our decision was not necessarily that conventional eggs are BAD for us, but that pasture-raised eggs are so amazingly GOOD for us. Eggs from pasture-raised poultry contain more vitamins A and E, folic acid and lutein, among other things, and are richer in omega-3 fats.
Chickens are meant to roam and forage for food and grubs. I just really like envisioning our chickens rooting around a hen house, fertilizing the environment, rather than a packed, crowded industrial poultry farm.
So what eggs should I be buying?
Here’s where it gets tricky.
From what I understand, there isn’t a lot of regulation around the verbage that can be used on an egg carton. “Free Range” could just mean that someone left a door open in the containment house. “Cage Free” does not necessarily mean that the hens were allowed to roam outside, but could just mean they were raised indoors without cages. For a brief guide to the different terms used regarding eggs, click here.
I was checking out the eggs at the grocery store the other day and noticed that a lot of them say “Vegetarian Diet”. While this may sound good, chickens were meant to eat insects, grubs and worms. If they are fed a strictly vegetarian diet, I’m going to assume they are on a diet of strictly grain. On the other hand, if it says “Vegetarian Feed”, I’m going to assume this just means they aren’t fed any animal by-products.
We are always in the market for organic eggs from pasture-raised chickens. What I understand an organic egg to be is that the chicken was raised on organic feed, allowed to roam in a pesticide-free environment and not given antibiotics or hormones. What is most important to me is that I know where the eggs come from. Regardless of what the egg carton says, I’d like to know exactly how the hens were raised. As always, a farm may not be certified organic, but use organic practices. It’s always best to be an educated consumer, do your own research to find out what works best for your family.
So where do I find these eggs?
Ask your friends and family. Ask on Facebook. We are SO lucky to have a friend of a friend who raises chickens in her yard. She sells us eggs by the truck load for $2/dozen. As I mentioned, so lucky. You’ll never know if you know someone who has chickens unless you ask.
Your local farmer’s market. All three of our local Tri-Cities markets have a few vendors that sell fresh eggs. Bonus: You can talk directly to the farmer or someone who works for the farm and get to know their farming practices. Maybe they read bedtime stories to their chickens at night. Who knows?
Craigslist. I did a quick search for “eggs” in our area and it came up with several listings, anywhere between $3 and $5 per dozen.
Raise your own! Emilie has been telling me for a long time that she wanted to raise chickens and I secretly thought she was nuts. Now that I have made the choice for our family to switch from conventional eggs, I’m trying to convince my husband to let me raise them.
The Google. Or just the Internet in general. I swear, this is one of your absolute best resources to at least kick off your search. Here are a few sites that let you search by state or zip code to find pasture-raised poultry, beef or pork.
Eatwild.com – You can easily search by state and then narrow by zip code
Eatwellguide.com – Search by zip code for local farms, markets and stores
Localharvest.org – Search by zip code for everything under the sun to help you in your journey (beef, poultry, milk, you name it)
Please share your thoughts. I definitely don’t know everything there is to know about eggs, this is just what I have gathered from research and talking to people.
I’m excited to share our journey with you! In the next post of this series, I will be talking about our switch to whole grains.
In case you missed it:
- Where our journey began and resources we have used
- Learning to read labels and eliminating hydrogenated oils
- Demystifying the produce aisle and fabulous local options
- The Big Milk Switch
- Real Food by Nina Planck (Amazon)