If it was legal for me to keep chickens in my backyard, I’d do it. I just love those perfect and pretty, fresh brown eggs that I get from the farmers’ market. And it’s not just about them being brown, because really, the color of the shell doesn’t tell you much about the nutritional value of what is contained inside. White eggs come from hens with white feathers and white ear lobes and brown eggs come from hens with red feather and red ear lobes. One difference you may have noticed is that brown eggs cost more. This is because chickens that lay brown eggs are larger birds and require more feed.
What is important is if those chickens get to roam around and eat a diet of grass and peck at the ground, the way a chicken was meant to live. This would be considered “free-range” or “cage-free”. While this sounds great and easy enough to find, the regulations of what free-range or cage-free means are pretty loose. Sometimes this means the chicken can only roam “free” for 5 minutes a day, hardly providing the chicken the opportunity to be a chicken. The deplorable conditions of factory farms are enough for me to put in a bit of extra time to find eggs that are safe and nutritious.
But when chickens are raised as a true free-range bird, the eggs are extremely rich in vitamins and minerals; much more nutrient dense than what you can find at the grocery store. The protein offered by an egg is unbeatable! It contains all of the essential amino acids to be a complete protein, not to mention a healthy serving of folic acid and Vitamin B6 and B12.
Please, please, please do not fall for the hype about only eating the egg whites to be healthy or lower your cholesterol. Unfortunately, there has been a stigma associated with that beautifully nutritious yolk. In truth, each person responds differently to eating dietary forms of cholesterol, like that found in eggs. The yolks actually contain a phospholipid that is responsible for preventing the fat and cholesterol accumulation in the liver.
Also, according to the Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating, “No research has ever shown that people who eat more eggs have more heart attacks than people who eat few eggs.” Consider the egg yolk as a part of the whole perfect package that is the egg. I like Jonny Bowdens book called “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”, which provides some great info about eggs.
The key to knowing if your eggs are perfect gems of nutrients and the product of humanely raised chickens is to know your farmer! Frequent your farmers’ market, talk to the sellers, ask questions, visit the farm, and check it out yourself. Visit localharvest.org to find a farm near you that sells eggs.
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