Are Pasture Raised Eggs Really That Good?
The quick answer is YES. However, in order to fully understand what you're buying with pasture-raised eggs, it is essential to understand what the alternative labeling on egg cartons really means. If you observe the wording on cartons the next time you purchase eggs at the local market, you might see "Free-Roaming", "Free-Range" or "Cage-Free" conveniently displayed for you to see. Although these terms are not exactly interchangeable, industrial or factory farmers are counting on you to use your mind to fill in the picture.
Unfortunately, the true picture is not at all attractive and it is important for you to do your due diligence to put healthy eggs on your plate. Packaging terminology like free-roaming, cage-free and free-ranging do not guarantee the conditions where the chickens are raised and laid the eggs. Virtually all major commercial egg farms are driven by a need to turn a corporate profit regardless of the competitiveness of the marketplace. Thus, many of the facilities have indoor floor operations in a poultry barn where hens live in overcrowded conditions and have very little room to roam. Yet they are still considered cage-free as well as free-ranging and free-roaming.
CertifiedHumane.org, which is an international non-profit certification organization, defines cage-free hens as non-caged that live in an area of less than 1 square foot as compared to free-range chickens that live in an area less than 2 square feet. Free-ranging hens must have access to a door that leads to an unspecified outdoor space but overcrowded conditions usually mean these birds never see daylight. On the other hand, eggs labeled pasture-raised were laid by chickens with a minimum of 108 square feet of outdoor space during daylight hours.
According to whfoods.com, pasture feeding of hens has been shown to significantly increase the vitamin E content of their eggs. In a recent study comparing caged hens to hens foraging on grasses and legumes, vitamin E in the yolk of eggs from hens who foraged in pastures was about 200% greater than vitamin E in the yolk of eggs from caged hens. So, pastured-raised eggs are considered to be among the best you can buy just behind organically-fed pastured eggs.
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