by Laura Parker Roerden
What kind of eggs should you buy? Most of us make the decision standing in the grocery aisle, the refrigerator door open scanning cartons with claims like “cage-free,” “organic,” “antibiotic free” and the ever-confusing “natural,” while we mentally calculate how much more we are spending for the eggs that sound healthier and more humane and asking ourselves: is it really worth it?
While a complete discussion of the real meaning behind these labels is helpful to every consumer, I’d like to make the case for pasture-raised eggs. Pasture-raised eggs are those lain by chickens that are given free-range access to actual pastures. Some are driven around in what are called “chicken-tractors,” which conjures up images of hilarious antics. But a chicken tractor is really just a wagon that can hold many chickens at a time for flexible transport and shelter. Hens transported by chicken tractors are allowed to roam an area of grassland that is rotated, assuring that high volumes of hens do not ruin the area. The chickens get what they need in terms nutrition, but they also leave their droppings as a natural fertilizer before moving on to greener, and (now rotated) pastures.
Hens that are raised on healthy grassland in the fresh air and sunshine have all of the benefits of eating as nature intended birds to eat: they have free choice access to worms, insects, seeds. These nutrients the hen eats end up concentrated in the egg itself. You could say that the birds are transferring healthy nutrients from the soil and mother earth directly to you through their eggs.
Pastured-eggs are EGG-cellent.Their large dark orange yolks even LOOK healthier, because they are. Their color, flavor and texture are made distinctive by high amounts of Vitamin A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, choline, and tons of omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA. A pasture-raised egg is a true superfood.
Scientists are increasingly looking at open grassland/pastureland as one of the many promising solutions to global warming. Effectively managed agricultural grassland takes carbon out of the atmosphere and puts it back in the ground. Why not give farmers a boost whose efforts to raise animals on pasture are often the only thing keeping land that takes carbon out of the atmosphere from being developed?
Your search for the best possible egg might even bring you to join a CSA or develop a relationship with a local farm, where you can be reconnected to the rhythms of light and nature that have sustained our bodies and psyches for millennia.
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Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth,
Also published on Medium.