Happy Chickens Lay Tasty Eggs

Posted on 10 July 2012 | 10 comments | share this

Eggs are hands down one of my favourite foods. I love eggs. I will eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In fact as a child we had a certain day of the week that was dedicated to this marvelous food. In our house Wednesday was no longer known as Wednesday, it was “Egg Day”. No one looked forward to this day of the week more than my dad and it is to him that I owe my great love of eggs. We often had eggs on the weekend too but Wednesday was always a guarantee. Things always looked a little brighter on Wednesday mornings.

Once upon a time an egg was just an egg. As with everything these days, it is a little more complicated than that. There are brown ones, white ones, blue ones, little ones, big ones, organic ones, free-range ones, free-run ones, cage-free ones, humane-certified ones, omega-3 ones, happy ones and sad ones. It can be a bit confusing knowing which eggs to buy and if one should spend $2 for a dozen or upwards of $6 a dozen.

The colour and size of the egg vary depending on the type of chicken that layed the egg but what’s inside is very much the same. But how the chickens are raised and what they are fed has a big impact on what’s inside and on the welfare on the chicken.

So what do all the different labels mean?

Free Run: Hens are cage-free and kept indoors in a barn. They do not have access to the outdoors and may or may not be overcrowded.

Free Range: Hens are cage-free and have access to the outdoors. How much they are outside is not clear. They may or may not be overcrowded or have nests and perches.

Certified Organic: Hens are cage-free and are raised free range (access to the outdoors) with the most space per bird. The chickens are also given perches, nest boxes, dust bathing areas and feed on organic pasture or eat organic feed. Certified farms are audited to ensure animal welfare.

Pastured Eggs: Hens roam outside in the fresh air with room to preen, eat bugs and well just be chickens. This is the traditional way of raising chickens. Their diet is supplemented with a grain based feed or veggies and other scraps from the farm. They may be certified organic or not depending on the farm. Pastured chickens and eggs are higher in omega 3 fats, beta carotene and vitamin E and of course taste. We do not see this label on eggs in Canada.

All Other Eggs: Hens are raised in very small cages with little to no room to move around, let alone preen, stretch out their wings or do the things chickens like to do.

So which to choose? Well that is up to you. For many reasons I choose pastured eggs (preferably organic) whenever I can get them. This means raising your own chickens or if you are a city living, apartment dweller like myself, buying them at a farm or farmers’ market where you can ask the farmer how the chickens are raised or where you can see the chickens running around being chickens with your very own eyes. I sought out these beautiful blue eggs from a friend of my aunt who has a small flock of chickens on Gabriola Island. Her chickens looked awfully happy running around the yard in the sunshine.

Chickens raised on pasture improves animal welfare, decreases environmental impact, supports small-scale farmers, sustains rural communities and the eggs have more nutrition and taste too. It is a win-win-win. At $6 a dozen, perhaps it means eating fewer eggs but remember there is a lot of nutrition in that little package. If I can’t access pastured eggs I go for the certified organic ones, which for me is the next best choice.

A little something to think on the next time you are standing in the egg aisle at the grocery store or you find yourself wondering what the difference is between the $2 or $6 dozen of eggs. Taste the difference for yourself and get crackin’ in the kitchen, whether it be fried, poached, or scrambled for breakfast, lunch or dinner.


Comments

  • Lovely post, Melissa! I just did my own on eggs a few months back. You may have a gentler voice on the egg issue than I do 🙂 Beautiful photos.

  • I think that is so cute that your family had a whole day dedicated to eggs!! 🙂

    Great post – I’m the same as you – I aim for organic when possible, even though it is quite pricey.

  • Thanks for reading Desiree and Amy.

  • Such a pretty post and though provoking too. Pastured eggs are very rare in UK so we mainly have to do with free range organic.

  • Luckily, we raise our own chickens so we know exactly how our chickens are treated and what they are fed (organic all the way). I LOVE that egg cup. Where did you get it?

  • Natalie- that is great that you raise your own chickens. The little cup was a gift. It was made by a potter in Brooklyn, Susannah Tisue.

  • Beautiful! I think we need to get a few blue egg producers for the chicken tractor this fall…

  • I agree Rachel! No one seems to have them at the Vancouver markets.

  • I know happy chickens make better eggs. My neighbour raises her own and those birds get fruit salad every day and other treats. The eggs taste amazing plus when you see those birds softly cooing when the “chicken mama” is on her way over to the pen, you know they are happy! I grew up knowing chickens with my grandmother etc and I have never seen such ‘happy chickens” yet no one seems to believe me! Well I know they are treated with respect so that’s all that counts.

  • Hi Em,

    That sounds just perfect. Lucky to have such great food right at your doorstep!

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