Tip #6 –Buy pastured eggs, and eat them often.
Don’t be afraid to eat eggs. Just make sure they’re from healthy hens. Chickens on pasture will not require antibiotics. Usually farmers who allow their chickens access to pasture do not use hormones or antibiotics.
If you’re still buying your eggs in a supermarket, you’ll have to be a reductionist shopper and look at the label. There are a few precautions to keep in mind.
First of all, don’t be fooled by “free-range” or “cage-free” on the label. “Free-range” means that the doors of the chicken houses are open for a certain number of hours each day. This gives the hens the “choice” of whether or not to go outside. Since their feed and water are inside the hen house, the chickens typically do not venture out. They stay in the house and eat what’s available there. If they do happen to go exploring outside, often they find no grass, worms or insects to eat, because the land around the hen house is barren.
“Cage free” on the label means that there are no cages in the chicken house, but the chickens are still inside a large building. They have no opportunity to forage for insects or eat grass.
Don’t be impressed by “100% vegetarian feed” or “100% organic feed”. Vegetarian feed could be 100% GMO corn, and organic feed could be 100% organic soy, neither of which, by itself, is a complete diet for a chicken. Chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians. Some grain to supplement their diet is ok, but chickens should not be raised on 100% grains, 100% soy, or 100% vegetable matter. They need access to grass, worms, insects, grubs, fly larvae, small rodents, and whatever other plant and insect life forms they encounter in their environment.
Eggs from pastured hens have a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K. Sound familiar? (See tip #5, “Consume meats from grassfed livestock, and eat the fat along with the meat”.)
Another important nutrient found in eggs is choline, necessary for a healthy liver and healthy neurological system.
So what’s the buzz word to look for on the egg carton? “Pastured”. Only pastured eggs are laid by hens that live according to their natural design.
A visual comparison of a pastured egg with a conventional egg is a useful exercise. Crack one of each open into separate bowls side by side. Observe the deep, rich orange color of the pastured egg yolk, and the pale yellow of the yolk of a conventional egg. Even eggs that are marked “cage free”, “free range” or “organic” are often pale yellow. The darker the yolk, the more nutrition.
Certain breeds of hens are better foragers than others (for example, Guinnea hens and Aracanas). As a result of their diet being mostly from the pasture, their yolks are usually the darkest.
Now look at he albumen (white) of the pastured egg. Notice how it is thick and viscous, rather than thin, watery and runny like the conventional egg white. Healthy hens lay eggs with firm albumen.
If you know your farmer, you could ask him/her not to wash your eggs. Unwashed eggs can be stored at room temperature for many weeks, rather than in the refrigerator for a short period of time. Unwashed eggs are safer than washed eggs because they still have a protective coating (called the cuticle) that keeps out germs and prevents the eggs from spoiling. Once they are washed they must be refrigerated because they are vulnerable to pathogens that can enter through the porous shell.
Isn’t it ironic that most states require eggs to be washed in the interest of food safety? Not so in France. In Joel Salatin’s book, Everything I Want to do is Illegal, he explains that in France it is illegal to sell washed eggs. A washed egg in France is considered unsafe.
Pastured eggs are difficult to find in a supermarket. You can find them more readily at your local grocery store, farmers market, or directly from your farmer. If you compare the price of pastured eggs, you may find them to be less expensive at the farmers market or at the farm, and more expensive at the supermarket.
A discussion about eggs wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the beneficial nutrient, cholesterol. This is not a misprint. I am indeed referring to cholesterol as a nutrient. Cholesterol plays important roles in our biochemistry. Hormones are made from cholesterol. Cholesterol is part of vitamin D (vitamin D is itself a hormone). Cholesterol helps the body to manage stress, inflammation, and healing. Cholesterol is an integral component of our cell membranes. Cholesterol is essential for normal brain and neurological function. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an article by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride about the many health benefits of cholesterol, and the dangers of lowering it.
There are many ways to prepare and enjoy eggs – over easy, scrambled, hard boiled, omlet, quiche, soufflé, or raw. One of my favorites is eggnog, a quick and easy snack or addition to any hearty breakfast. To make it, I combine 2 raw eggs (or yolks only) from pastured chickens (I advise against using eggs from chickens that are not pastured for food safety reasons), 1 cup of raw milk (or ¾ cup raw milk and ¼ cup raw cream), 1 tablespoon of grade B or ungraded maple syrup, and a dash of nutmeg. I blend it using either a whisk, food processor, eggbeater, blender, or simply a fork. I swear, it’s like drinking ice cream!