BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU GET YOUR CHICKEN (AND EGGS)
"The term free range is now as meaningless as the word natural. And cage-free does not mean crate-free (loophole!) The best plan for consuming healthy (and ethically raised) poultry and eggs is to buy from a farmer whose practices you know, at a local market. But that's not always possible, so look for the word organic, which promises that the birds were not shot up with antibiotics or given feed containing animal by-products. It's not much, but it's the best term there is right now."
When it comes to purchasing eggs, I recommend trying to purchase eggs grown by local farmers as a first resource. In the summer I get my eggs from Farmer's Markets but once fall hits I begin the egg share at Farmers and Artisans who source them from local farmers. I am sure there are plenty of places around Buffalo that sell locally grown eggs brought in by the farms, but I wasn't able to find a list to share with you. If you have a place or two please let us know so we can all support our community by purchasing from local farms.
There aren't a lot of government regulations in the egg industry (or the food industry), so when someone says that their eggs are cage-free or free-range that can mean any number of things. It does, however, usually mean that they are grouped together in tight spaces indoors (barns and buildings) and although there is sometimes a small space available for them outdoors the hens don't usually use it. Industrially raised eggs subject the hens to some too-awful-to-mention cruelties, along with poor feed and antibiotic injections. One big food chain actually brags that they sell "cage-free" eggs which they are proud of because "they wouldn't sell eggs from chickens that are caged." Sometimes what you don't know can hurt you! Either way, it turns out to be cruel for the animal producing the eggs and nutritionally less advantageous to the eater of these eggs!
As for eggs that advertise that they are "omega-3 eggs", Dr. Mercola says "I would STRONGLY encourage you to avoid all omega-3 eggs as they are actually LESS healthy for you. Typically the animals are fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. But even if they were healthy, it turns out that omega-3 eggs do not last anywhere near as long as non-omega-3 eggs." He also goes on to give an example that "Land O Lakes Omega-3 All-Natural Eggs: The labels says each serving contains 350 mg of omega-3, but independent lab tests revealed that less than half of it is DHA and EPA."
There are a few differences that I notice between 'store-bought' and local. One is that local eggs have a richer color yolk and the other is that the shells are more fragile, almost thinner than the store-bought. There is a difference in taste too! Local eggs taste much better, and some more than others; but, always better than store bought which could be hanging around the store for quite awhile before they get purchased.
Nutritionally, here is the run down of what was found in a study comparing pasture raised eggs vs. supermarket eggs: Pastured eggs contain :
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- Two times more omega-3 fatty acids
- Three times more vitamin E
- Seven times more beta carotene
- 3-6 times the amount of Vitamin D
By purchasing from local farmers you can store your eggs safely on the counter which I wouldn't try with store bought eggs. However, you will get more shelf life out of any egg by storing them in the refrigerator pointy sides down!
The number one thing I find people are fooled about is color. Almost everyone thinks that a brown egg or speckled egg is better than a white one. There is no discrimination with eggs, they are all created equal. The only thing that really makes a difference is how they are raised and what they feed on.