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Farm Fresh Chicken Eggs vs Store Bought - What’s the Difference?
In the modern world, we’re more disconnected from our food than ever before. Most people will never visit a poultry farm or see how eggs are produced.
For example, if you didn’t grow up around a farm, you might not know that eggs usually aren’t white! In fact, there are lots of differences between how eggs actually are, and how they’re sold in the store.
In this article, we’ll talk about how real, farm fresh eggs differ from the eggs you see in the store. Which is better? Which should you be eating? Let’s take a look and find out.
What Does “Farm Fresh” Mean?
When we use the term “farm fresh,” it’s important to be clear about the kind of farming we mean. While the term “free range” conjures images of wide open spaces, most chicken products marketed as free range are produced in factory farms. These free range chickens are typically given the same food as cage-raised chickens and live in stressful, crowded conditions.
So when we say “farm fresh,” we’re talking about chickens raised on small farms that are actually allowed to roam on open pasture, or “pastured hens.”
When you, as an individual, small farmer, decide to raise your own egg laying chicks, you can know that their eggs will be farm fresh, and not simply cage free or free range.
Why Do Store Bought Eggs Look Like That?
So why are most store bought eggs white? Is it true that the eggs are bleached?
To answer the second question first, no. Different breeds of chickens lay different colored eggs. In the mid-20th century, pop culture spread the aesthetic preference of food that appeared “cleaner” or “purer.” So, breeds like the white leghorn, which lays white eggs, became a popular commercial egg layer.
The truth is that the color of the egg says nothing about its contents. Chickens lay eggs in a whole rainbow of colors ranging from dark brown to yellowish to white. While “free range” eggs are commonly brown, this doesn’t mean the chickens are necessarily healthier or wilder, just that the eggs were laid by a breed which produces brown eggs.
It’s a common misconception that “cage-free” or “free-range” chickens live in better conditions, or produce better eggs. Part of this comes from the misunderstanding that brown eggs are healthier than white. The truth is that neither of these kinds of chickens are raised in good conditions.
Both “cage-free” and “free-range” hens are kept indoors in cramped conditions. Their food is a formulated blend of grains and synthetic vitamins. This is perfectly acceptable for keeping chickens healthy and laying, but it’s not optimal for producing high-quality eggs. High stress levels and lack of micronutrients that chickens get from feeding on open pasture will ultimately reduce the nutritional value of their eggs.
Now let’s look at what really matters, what’s inside the egg. Factory farming as a practice commonly keeps animals in a much more high-stress environment. And while factory farm chickens are given all the nutrients they need, they’re commonly given lower-quality food than small farms with pastured hens do.
The result is that farm fresh eggs are consistently much higher in nutrients. Research conducted by Penn State researcher Heather Karsten suggested pasture-raised hens produce eggs with a much higher nutritional content than factory farmed chickens.
The research investigated the vitamin and fatty acid content of eggs from caged and pastured hens, and the results were clear. Eggs from pastured hens had twice as much vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, and half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. For reference, a healthy diet should ideally have a ratio of 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
So on nutrient content alone, farm fresh eggs win. Karsten also found that the vitamin A concentration was 38% higher in pastured eggs. Go figure - happy chickens make nicer eggs.
If you can believe it, farm fresh eggs even taste better. This may not be surprising, but farm fresh eggs tend to be larger, with richer, more flavorful yolks. This makes them preferable for baking, as well as just about any other cooking needs.
Barring the ethics of eating poultry products produced by factory farming, pastured hens from small farms are much more sustainable. As we’re now aware, agriculture is one of the leading causes of the climate crisis. Particularly, the production of animal feed is a huge consumer of water.
When you consume farm fresh eggs, you’re supporting more sustainable practices. For example, if you produce eggs in your own back yard, you can feed your chickens compost. Or, if you wanted to go a step further, you could feed them black soldier fly larvae.
By re-using your waste products to make food, you’re practicing what’s called circular agriculture. This is the gold standard for sustainable farming, and one of the many ways we can help to repair the earth.