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Are Free Range Eggs A Healthier Alternative to Eggs?
Last week I read a hub by CGull8m, one of my very favorite hubbers, which was entitled Seven or More Eggs a Week Raises Risk of Death.
Over and over we have heard that eggs are healthy, eggs are unhealthy, should eat them, shouldn't eat them. What is the truth? It is all the truth. The truth depends on which eggs were being used in each case.
First we must define the two types of eggs we will be talking about. Both are chicken eggs, but one is produced very differently than the other. Each method of production will get different results.
Whether the eggs are brown, green, white or blue they mayhave been factory farmed. Even eggs that are marked organic are being produced in factory farms. In fact, even eggs marked free-range may not truly be raised in a free range situation because of how the USDA defines the terms.The USDA has very strict guidelines for what constitutes a free-range chicken, but there are not guidelines for free-range eggs. The term can be used anyway the producer wants, and is often abused.
Terms that you may find stamped on your egg carton at the local grocers include:Cage free, free range, Organic, and my personal favorite, vegetarian. These terms often mean that the chickens are not treated significantly different than the chickens that produce the cheaper eggs.
Cage free simply means that rather than 20,000 chickens being caged in a six foot by six foot room with their feet wired to the cage floor, they are free to roam about in that same six foot by six foot room. Free range may mean that there is a small door at one end of the room which leads to a small patch of dirt that the chickens may or may not find.
Organic is simply refering to the type of feed that is fed, it must not include chemicals. The chickens may, or may ot be treated ethically. And, finally, vegetarian means that the chickens are being given a vegetarian diet. This one akes me laugh because it sounds healthy and great but in reality chickens are omnivores and I have watched my own chickens snatch up unwary mice, snakes, lizards, and other creatures, including bugs. Chickens are not naturally vegetarian and a vegetarian diet is not going to make them healtheir.
The chickens raised in factory farm situations are understandably stressed. They are routinely debeaked so they will not cannabalize one another. They get little fresh air, live in a putrid environment full of their own waste, with lights on round the clock to encourage more production. Because of these conditions slamonella and other diseases are a real threat.
This happens at organic farms as well as nonorganic ones.
Pasture raised chickens are allowed to free roam and eat a well rounded diet of feed (usually organic) as well as fresh grass, greens, bugs, and whatever else they find. They are normally allowed to sleep at night without extra full spectrum lighting, and have free access to fresh water.
They are not debeaked, not subject to caging, and there is little concern of them canabalizing each other. Pasture raised chickens show relaxed behavior as they move around the property, making quiet noises and interacting with the other chickens.
The best way to be sure you are getting eggs from ethically raised, stress free chickens is to buy from someone locally. Visit the farm, if possible, and see the conditions for yourself. If that is not possible then research where your eggs come from, and don;t be afraid to call or email the company to ask for more information.
In 1988 the co-author of The Omega Diet,Artemis Simopoulos, discoved that the eggs from pastured hens raised in Greece contained thirteen times more omega-3 fatty acids than the average eggs from the United States.
In 1974, a study conducted in Britian found that eggs from pastured hens had fifty percent more folic acid and seventy percent more B12 than eggs from factory-farmed hens did.
In 1997, yet another study in Animal Feed Science and Technology found eggs from free-range chickens had higher levels of both omega-3s and vitamin E than those from hens that had been raised in cages.
Finally, in 2003, Pennsylvania State University researchers found that the hens that were allowed to roam on pasture produced three times more omega-3s in their eggs than their sisters that were factory raised in cages. There was also twice as much vitamin E and a full forty percent more vitamin A in the yolks of the pastured birds.
The cholesterol level of a pature raised egg is 140g, according to the site Nutrition Data. The same size egg produced commercially has 200g of cholesterol.
Mother Earth News has been conducting studies and research for years and has found time and time again that the pasture raised chickens produce consistantly healtheir eggs.
Consider that the biggest argument that pasutre raised chickens produce eggs witht he same nutritional value as the chickens that are factory farmed comes from the Egg Board, with their twenty million dollar budget and army of lobbyists. Twenty million dollars paid to them by huge, corporate factory farms, to say that there is no difference despite the numerous studies to the contrary.
It Isn't Just California
Truly Pasture Raised Chickens
Of course the best way to insure that you are eating the healthiest eggs ever is to raise chickens.
It isn't difficult and many people can do it even in the cities with a helpful item called a chicken tractor. This keeps the chickens safe while still allowing them to be on pasture and eat living green grass. There is really nothing like collecting fresh eggs from your very own chickens every day.