Meet Real Free-Range Eggs

A recent MOTHER EARTH NEWS study found that compared to conventional American eggs, real free-range eggs have less cholesterol and saturated fat, plus more vitamins A and E, beta carotene and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids.

| October/November 2007

  • Left to their own devices, chickens prefer to hang out in lush, green pastures rather than cramped, steel cages (these are from Skagit River Ranch of Washington).
    Left to their own devices, chickens prefer to hang out in lush, green pastures rather than cramped, steel cages (these are from Skagit River Ranch of Washington).
    Photo by George and Eiko Vojkovich
  • Rancho Cappuccino; Lawrence, Kan.
    Rancho Cappuccino; Lawrence, Kan.
    Photo by Bryan Welch
  • Ise-America; Galena, Maryland.
    Ise-America; Galena, Maryland.
    Photo by Compassion Over Killing
  • These happy hens at Misty Meadows Farm in Washington produce eggs with quadruple the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids of conventional eggs!
    These happy hens at Misty Meadows Farm in Washington produce eggs with quadruple the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids of conventional eggs!
    Photo by Melissa Moeller/Miller Meadows Farm
  • Eggs from Harmony Hill in Virginia have six times more beta carotene than supermarket eggs.
    Eggs from Harmony Hill in Virginia have six times more beta carotene than supermarket eggs.
    Photo by Dennis Deacon
  • Pick pastured eggs to support local farms, such as Springfield Farm in Maryland, where the eggs have less than half the cholesterol of commercially raised eggs.
    Pick pastured eggs to support local farms, such as Springfield Farm in Maryland, where the eggs have less than half the cholesterol of commercially raised eggs.
    Photo by David Smith/Springfield Farm
  • Eggs from Spring Mountain Farms in Pennsylvania have 5 1/2 times the vitamin E of conventional eggs.
    Eggs from Spring Mountain Farms in Pennsylvania have 5 1/2 times the vitamin E of conventional eggs.
    Photo by Bill Moreton/Spring Mountain Farms
  • When hens are allowed to roam and forage for their natural diet, they produce superior eggs.
    When hens are allowed to roam and forage for their natural diet, they produce superior eggs.
    Photo by William D. Adams

  • Left to their own devices, chickens prefer to hang out in lush, green pastures rather than cramped, steel cages (these are from Skagit River Ranch of Washington).
  • Rancho Cappuccino; Lawrence, Kan.
  • Ise-America; Galena, Maryland.
  • These happy hens at Misty Meadows Farm in Washington produce eggs with quadruple the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids of conventional eggs!
  • Eggs from Harmony Hill in Virginia have six times more beta carotene than supermarket eggs.
  • Pick pastured eggs to support local farms, such as Springfield Farm in Maryland, where the eggs have less than half the cholesterol of commercially raised eggs.
  • Eggs from Spring Mountain Farms in Pennsylvania have 5 1/2 times the vitamin E of conventional eggs.
  • When hens are allowed to roam and forage for their natural diet, they produce superior eggs.

The new results are in: Free-range eggs from hens allowed to peck on pasture are a heck of a lot better than those from chickens raised in cages!

Free-Range Eggs

Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. That’s the conclusion we have reached following completion of the 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project. Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:

• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

These amazing results come from 14 flocks around the country that range freely on pasture or are housed in moveable pens that are rotated frequently to maximize access to fresh pasture and protect the birds from predators. We had six eggs from each of the 14 pastured flocks tested by an accredited laboratory in Portland, Ore. The chart at the end of this article shows the average nutrient content of the samples, compared with the official egg nutrient data from the USDA for “conventional” (i.e. from confined hens) eggs. The chart lists the individual results from each flock.



The 2007 results are similar to those from 2005, when we tested eggs from four flocks all managed as truly free range. But our tests are not the first to show that pastured eggs are more nutritious — see “Mounting Evidence” below for a summary of six studies that all indicated that pastured eggs are richer in nutrients than typical supermarket eggs.

We think these dramatically differing nutrient levels are most likely the result of the different diets of birds that produce these two types of eggs. True free-range birds eat a chicken’s natural diet — all kinds of seeds, green plants, insects and worms, usually along with grain or laying mash. Factory farm birds never even see the outdoors, let alone get to forage for their natural diet. Instead they are fed the cheapest possible mixture of corn, soy and/or cottonseed meals, with all kinds of additives — see “The Caged Hen’s Diet” below.

Aisling
1/4/2018 10:46:50 AM

Super market Guru was correct. You misunderstood their point. The industry definition of free range is "access to the outdoors". It's basically meaningless. What they described is exactly what happens in industrial egg farms that claim free range. If you want to buy free range you need to find a local farmer and ask questions. Find out what free range means to them. Check out their farm. But don't just trust a label on a carton of eggs at the grocery.


Aisling
1/4/2018 10:45:24 AM

Super market Guru was correct. You misunderstood their point. The industry definition of free range is "access to the outdoors". It's basically meaningless. What they described is exactly what happens in industrial egg farms that claim free range. If you want to buy free range you need to find a local farmer and ask questions. Find out what free range means to them. Check out their farm. But don't just trust a label on a carton of eggs at the grocery.


Aisling
1/4/2018 10:45:23 AM

Super market Guru was correct. You misunderstood their point. The industry definition of free range is "access to the outdoors". It's basically meaningless. What they described is exactly what happens in industrial egg farms that claim free range. If you want to buy free range you need to find a local farmer and ask questions. Find out what free range means to them. Check out their farm. But don't just trust a label on a carton of eggs at the grocery.







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