The Incredible Edible Egg


So it’s time to talk eggs.  Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years, but as a part of a well-balanced diet, eggs are nutritious. At least they were before we started messing with them.  In my mind, it just makes sense.  God gave us eggs, and people have been eating them for hundreds of years.  It’s only in the last 40 years that we would have thought to separate out the egg whites (egg white omelets?  What’s the point?) and throw away the yolks — the part with the most nutrients.  And don’t get me STARTED on artificial egg substitutes.  Even before I got on my traditional food kick, I refused to buy fake eggs.  Blech.

As far as the kind of eggs to buy, this is what I’ve deduced from compiling information from several resources:  Ideally, eggs from pastured chickens are the best. This is because pastured chickens are roaming the barnyard like they were meant to, eating bugs, worms, and grains while soaking up the sun and all of its wonderful vitamin D.

You’d think it would be as simple as that, but it’s not.  There are many misleading labels on egg cartons in the grocery store.  For example, don’t be swayed by the egg cartons that say “all vegetarian fed.”  That means those chickens have never seen the light of day, otherwise they would be eating bugs and worms like chickens were born to do.  At least, vegetarian-fed chickens haven’t been fed ground up animal by-products like conventional grocery store eggs, but they still aren’t the optimum choice.

“Cage-free” is another nebulous classification.  That usually means that they’ve been contained in a barn without access to the out of doors, and often their beaks and/or wings are clipped so they don’t hurt one another.  Now, does that sound like a healthy chicken to you?

“Omega-3 eggs” are from hens that have been fed flax seed and fish oil to increase their levels of omega-3s.  Whatever.  I prefer to add flax seed to my granola and take my fish oil capsules and buy my eggs from hens eating their traditional diets, but that’s me.  Also, according to this article by Dr. Mercola, Omega-3 eggs are less healthy for you.  He says this:

Typically, the animals are fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Additionally, omega-3 eggs are far more perishable than non-omega-3 eggs so they don’t stay fresh nearly as long.

Then of course conventional eggs are the ones from chickens that are crammed into small, stacked cages, eating cheap soy and corn-based feed mixtures that are full of additives.

“Pastured eggs” are from chickens raised in their natural environments, but they are hard to find.  Usually you have to know a farmer.

So.  Here’s my Good-Better-Best scenario for eggs.

Good: Eggs are good for you.  If all you can find or afford are the conventional grocery store variety, eat them anyway.

Better: “Vegetarian-Fed” or “Cage-Free” or “Free Range” organic eggs.  At least they haven’t been fed animal by-products.  That’s something, at least.  According to Dr. Mercola, “If you have to purchase your eggs from a commercial grocery store, I would advise getting free-range organic.”

BEST: Pastured chicken eggs — eggs from chickens who are allowed to roam around outside, pecking at the grass, eating insects and worms.  According to this article, pastured eggs are richer in nutrients (such as vitamin D, beta carotene, and those omega-3 fats that are so good for us) than their conventional counterparts.  Also, it appears that they may be lower in cholesterol and saturated fat.  And whether or not they are any healthier, they simply taste better.  I am happy to support fresh, local foods whenever possible.  To find free-range pasture farms, try your local health food store or you can get recommendations from EatWild.com and LocalHarvest.com.

Don’t Do It! Omega-3 eggs are a racket.  Don’t waste your money on them.  Also, please don’t eat powdered eggs or egg substitutes, and for goodness sakes, don’t ditch the yolks.  As with all good things, eat eggs in moderation and enjoy!

As always, these are my opinions based on a very limited (but growing daily) amount of research and my own gut instincts.  Do your own research and decide what is best for your family.

Photo Credit: protohiro

**If you are concerned about cholesterol, I think this article by Cheeseslave is verrrrry interesting.  Incidentally, I made the baked soaked oatmeal to which she refers, and it is delicious.  At least, I think so; unfortunately my kids aren’t so convinced.  At any rate, if you struggle with cholesterol and it is a concern of yours, try it!  What do you have to lose?

On the other hand, I’m not so convinced that cholesterol is something to fear.  Read this article and tell me what you think.

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28 Responses

  1. I have always hated the thought of chickens being crammed into those cages just for our omelet. I look for “free range” on the carton. But now you’ve given me something else to look for!

    I am so glad you’re on this kick.

  2. LOL – after years of health issues and learning about this stuff, I totally agree with you, but I was just grumbling on Facebook yesterday about having had too many eggs recently! They make me grumpy right now. It’s just because I’m pregnant and have to have all that protein. 😛

  3. I guess for me growing up in the country I always preferred getting my eggs from the farm. I swear I can taste a difference. Now I am stuck in the city and can’t finge pastured chickens anywhere! ButI didn’t know about the vegertarian ones. Thanks I will have to look for those next time I go shopping.

  4. I am so glad I have farm fresh eggs! I totally agree with this post 🙂 Eggs get a bad rap (just like red meat) because of the nasty way the animals are treated to try to make more money from farming these days. (cooping the animals up and feeding them gross stuff on those great big farms)

    Small family farms rock 🙂 Our eggs are so tasty and so purty 😉

  5. I love eggs! I eat one every day. I like to get them at the farmers market, but when I do buy them at the store I always save the egg cartons to give to the egg person at the farmers market. I also am so glad you are on this “kick”. It is definately keeping me informed. Thank-you!

  6. I’ve been eating my eggs faithfully, Jo-Lynne. Never could stand an egg without it’s yoke anyway. =) Thanks for continuing to talk about the various things you’ve changed in your diet. It helps me make baby steps in changing and prepares me for my next trip to the store and knowing what to look for. I’m reading a lot between books & blogs, but you make it simple with your “good, better, best” tips. I am even losing some weight, and I can’t believe it!

  7. Melissa, yeah, and it seems daunting at times, but the rule of thumb that I keep reminding myself is — the more natural, the better. I’m automatically skeptical of anything that changes the original. Like we think we can make something better than God did it. How egocentric we are!!!

  8. I have always kept eggs as a staple in my diet. Guess I never got all worried about cholesterol from eggs.
    Next year I think we will finally be raising our own chickens! I cannot wait to walk out back and bring in some fresh eggs for breakfast.

  9. Stacey and Mary, I’m SO jealous! No chickens allowed here in our pristine little development. Which I loved until I decided I wanted chickens and homegrown veggies. Oh well. I’ll just continue to support local farmers instead. 🙂

  10. I am really enjoying your posts on real food. A client of my husbands recommended reading “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon. She has many of the same principles as the books/sites you have recommended. Whole milk/raw milk, etc. Have you read this one?

    When I was pregnant my OB told me to eat as many eggs as I wanted when I told her I was concerned about cholesterol. Funny this only applied to when I was pregnant? Hmmm.

    In addition, didn’t know if you have seen “Julie & Julia” yet? Fun movie. But what I thought was interesting was Julie says something in the movie about loving butter once she started cooking all of Julia’s recipes. I was thinking about it later and Julia Child and her husband both lived to be in their 90s and I am sure Julia only ever cooked with real butter, not margarine. In addition, I am sure she ate lots of red meat (gasp!) and not very many processed/convenience foods like we do today. Very interesting to think about.

  11. Jackie, Nourishing Traditions is on my bookshelf. I can’t wait to read it. And I’m DYING to see Julie & Julia. My own great-grandmother lived to be well into her 90s after eating lard and butter and eggs her whole life. Interestingly it was her heart that held out while the rest of her body failed. Surely some of that is due to good genes, but still. Makes ya stop and think.

  12. Hi there! Found you today through Fight Back Friday.

    We currently have six hens, allowed to forge and roam by day. Nothing beats fresh eggs. It literally kills me if they temporarily stop producing (usually b/c of a scare from hawks) and I have to purchase eggs at the store. Even the ‘organic’, ‘free range’, etc. make me gag. They are also so entertaining. My kiddos love love their ‘pets’.

  13. Real eggs rock. I can’t stand the nasty ones from the grocery store. I can get eggs through my CSA which is going to be a saving grace starting next month since the farmer’s markets will be closing down.

    I just ordered Nourishing Traditions. Can’t wait to get it!

  14. I’m just curious who the first person was who decided that eggs were a good thing to eat. I’m grateful to that crazy person who decided that a hard white orb coming out of a chicken’s butt might just be delicious 🙂 🙂 🙂

  15. My neighbor has some hens and a rooster, cocka doodle doo! Anyway, he is nice enough to bring us eggs from time to time and I LOVE when he does – the eggs are so much better. It’s hard to go back to my store bought ones after enjoying his. The whole neighborhood wants them, though so I only get them occasionally. Boo.

  16. You forgot the best part – eggs are CHEAP! As someone with a large hungry family, eggs are my friend.

    I didn’t know all the distinctions – thanks for that.

    I bought some of those omega-3s when they first came out – they were GROSS. Literally tasted like fish! Oh, so nasty, I puked in my kitchen sink.

    You’re welcome for that visual. 🙂

  17. Okay, so I was a week behind on blogs and didn’t have time to read this entire post, but I really want chickens. I think my neighbors would be royally unhappy about it, but I’d kill (almost!) for fresh eggs. And chickens are cute. Though I’ve heard that between the poop and the lice they are really disgusting…

  18. I’m curious if you’ve done any research on peanut butter. I bought some the other day touting its omega-3 benefits, but the taste is awful! Thanks!

  19. Love it! We ended up with 2 doz. eggs the week before we went on vacation a few weeks ago and I was refusing to go grocery shopping so we had various egg dishes for dinner 3 times over about 9 days. It was great!

    We get our eggs delivered (along with our milk) from a local dairy–the chickens are all pastured (I always used the term free-range but I guess pastured is more accurate) and eat all those bugs, etc.

    Yum! (eggs not bugs!)

  20. Hi, Lisa. I don’t buy “omega-3-anything.” I don’t like products that artificially add nutrients to our foods. I think it’s best to get to get them naturally. So if you want more omega-3s, then eat foods that are naturally rich in omega-3s. If you want peanut butter, eat it in its most natural state. KWIM?

    I don’t go as far as to get straight peanut butter (peanuts ground up with nothing added) b/c I like a bit of oil and sugar and salt to make it spreadable and make it taste better. But I stop short at peanut butter with artificial fats.

    In other words, I choose the ones that use palm oil, salt and natural sugar. Skippy Natural makes one, and Marantha also makes a really good version that I like a lot. It’s pricey, though.

    Hope that helps!

  21. I am a big big believer in Omega 3s, but the tiny bits amounted to the 2 tablespoons you put on your sandwich? It’s just marketing.

    I take enough capsules to get about 1000mg of DHEA and I buy the Omega 3 Gummies for my kids, which they love. You can find them at Costco and Target.

    By the way, Fish Oil does WONDERS for hormone nuttiness caused by baby blues or weaning or, just being female.

  22. Last week I picked up some free range eggs at the dairy farm. The yolk was that beautiful dark yelllowish/orange. Anyway I was boiling 5 and one just won’t stay down. I thought, I bet there is a chicken in there. When I took them out sure enough, the egg won’t stay down to get boiled because there was a chicken. That’s sad actually, but that’s the way with free range chickens 🙂

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