So in my quest to find pastured/healthy/real eggs I came across quite a few stumbling blocks that I didn’t expect. I wanted to find a local source of eggs from actual free-ranging, dirt-and-bug-pecking, organically-fed-when-needed chickens. I have not found that yet, at least not in any of my local stores (big or independent). I’m going to check out a new farmer’s market this weekend, ever hopeful. I know such eggs are to be had around here, I just have to find them.
So until then, I buy eggs at the store. I said ok, I want cage-free eggs (hopefully actually cage-free, as in not in a cage and able to roam like an actual chicken) that are NOT “vegetarian fed.” Because, and this is the kicker and the New Thing I Recently Learned…
Chickens are not vegetarians.
Chickens eat bugs when left to their own devices. Chickens eat bugs and peck at dirt and even cow patties. Such things create naturally healthy birds (no antibiotics needed), and healthy birds produce eggs with superior nutrition. You can even see the difference in egg yolks (I’ll post a pic tomorrow; I forgot to snap one this morning while making breakfast).
All this is new to me; I’ve only discovered it in the past month. I didn’t realize until recently that “cage-free” eggs are too often not actually free-roaming chickens; they are still crammed into small spaces yet have “access” to yards they rarely use. I didn’t realize that “vegetarian fed” means they are given soy. I believe soy to be an incredible danger to our health, and I now avoid it at all costs, something that’s hard to do—and after what I went through trying to avoid peanuts, MSG, HFCS, and all their variations (resulting in just not buying anything premade/processed), any time it is hard to avoid something put in food, because it’s put into everything, a big ole’ red warning flag starts waving like mad in my head (oh hey wait, maybe that’s why I used to get dizzy spells years ago…blood sugar problems yes, but it might also have been all those red warning flags! Eek!) I also didn’t realize that “regular” eggs are so lacking in nutrition as to make them a mere shadow of what an egg is supposed to be. But now I know, and can make better choices.
Ha! If only it were that easy!
I went nuts last week trying to find non-vegetarian fed, free-range eggs! Soy & vegetarianism are still so much a part of “healthy” thinking that even my local, independent natural foods store only carries eggs that are “vegetarian.” Aarrgghhh.
But then I got pleasantly surprised at my local Publix. They just started carrying The Country Hen eggs…I saw the little containers and was intrigued. As you can see from the pic, the label says, “sunlit barns and porches.” Well, that’s not roaming around the countryside, but it’s closer than being crowded into a small space. Nothing on the package said “vegetarian,” either. So I decided to buy a package and check out the company.
Wow, was I pleasantly surprised! The egg’s shells are nice and thick and the yolks are that lovely deep orange color they get when the chickens are healthier! The company apparently can’t let their huge flocks roam due to predation and (government) fears of bird flu from wild birds, so they came up with these big “porches” for the birds to use to be able to roam & scratch and, well, be chickens. Nice compromise! They also make their own chicken feed, and while they don’t disclose what goes into it, and I’m a bit nervous that there is still soy in it, the eggs speak for themselves. The farm looks lovely & well-cared for, I like the attitude of the company toward their operation (they even sell bags of compost from all the chickens—if I lived near them, I’d so be buying up a ton of it), and these eggs are the closest I’ve found to looking like actual farm eggs.
The downside is that they ain’t cheap. My Publix only carries the half-dozen packages, so my egg budget has had to expand a bit. Also, these eggs are not local; they are shipped in from up north. Not ideal. But—until I find a local source, I would rather support a good, small company that is producing better food. I figure the extra I pay for the eggs is a way to vote with my dollars for what I want. I also consider the price a “health care premium.” And since I don’t buy any processed/convienence foods, the money I save there can go to better eggs. If you ever see this brand for sale, definitely try them. :)
In the words of Julia Child: Bon appetit! ;)