“Although I can not lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes.”
– George Bernard Shaw
It was an exciting day, that first time we found an egg in a nesting box. We had waited over 5 months for that wonderful moment! Now the eggs arrive at a regular pace, but the marvel of collecting an egg and finding it still warm has not diminished.
What do I enjoy about having our own chickens laying eggs? I love waltzing right past the egg section at the grocery store. I love opening our cartons and seeing eggs in many lovely shades of brown, and a few green ones as well. I smile when one egg is so big that the carton won’t shut, and another is so small, I could fit two like it in the same carton spot. I grin when I have to daily climb the ladder to the barn loft to get the egg that one silly chicken always lays in the cozy spot between the ladder and wall joint. I delight in watching the hens scratch in the dirt and how they run to me when I bring them worms or veggie peelings. I shake my head in amazement at the loud ruckus the hens make every time they lay an egg. You’d think they had just done something miraculous, they way they carry on.
Well, maybe it is a miracle– “A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.”1 And what a treasure, indeed! The nutritional benefits of the eggs of my free-ranging chickens far surpass those of the factory eggs in the supermarket. A study by Mother Earth News2 found this about free range eggs as compared to their factory counterparts:
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
- 3 to 6 times as much vitamin D
In addition, essential fatty acids are important, but with our modern diets, we generally have too much omega 6, and too little omega 3. Commercialized grocery store eggs from hens fed mostly grain can contain ratios as high as 19 to 1 (omega 6 to 3). However, organic free range hens that have access to bugs and veggies have the correct omega 3/omega 6 ratio of 1 to 1.3
You might think you are buying good quality eggs from the supermarket because the label reads, “free range.” Sadly, this may only mean there is a small door where hens may exit from the crowded factory floor if they can find it. Here is a chart to help you find your way through the egg maze.
But instead of trying to find your way through that mess of information, locate someone who is raising their own chickens and buy from them. The shells will be thicker and the yolk will be a pleasing dark yellow, indicative of their higher nutritional content. What goes into the hen is reflective in the eggs they produce. You get what you pay for. So, what are you paying for?
1 The Hobbit, Tolkien, JRR.
3 Sally Fallon and Mary G Enig, Ph.D., “Nourishing Traditions.” New Trends Publishing.