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Pasture Raised Eggs - Is There A Difference?

written by

CRAIG SCHMIDT

posted on

March 24, 2023

So, what makes for a good egg?

The way the chickens are raised makes all the difference. Their diet also greatly contributes to the quality of the egg.

Most eggs available in grocery store chains come from factory farms. These are large, confinement barns where thousands of chickens are housed in a controlled environment. 

The advantage of CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) is their efficiency of scale. The downside is the chickens are placed in an unnatural environment and this creates stress.

When you have 10,000 or more chickens in a confined area this creates an environment where disease can easily break out and must be monitored very closely. 

In recent years large egg companies have come under a lot of pressure to give the chickens more space. Consumers are becoming more aware of how the chickens are being raised and are making purchasing decisions based on egg label claims.

Unfortunately, this is where it gets a little tricky for the uneducated consumer.

Egg label claims are many and varied and unless you are a savvy shopper, you may be getting greenwashed.

Several misleading label claims to watch out for:

  • Free-range eggs
  • Cage-free
  • Pasture-raised

Free-range eggs - many of the claims stating the eggs come from free-range chickens are very misleading. These chickens will still be raised inside a large confinement barn but won’t be restricted to small cages inside the barn.

They will still be fed a diet made with GMO ingredients and still face the stresses of living with thousands of other chickens breathing the dust and fecal-laden air inside the barns.

Cage-free eggs - This simply means the eggs come from chickens raised inside large confinement barns but they aren’t confined to cages. Still no fresh air or sunshine. No green grass to eat or crickets to chase. 

These chickens are fed a diet of GMO grains.

Pasture-raised eggs - Yes, even this label can be misleading.

You see, large companies realized the consumer demand for healthier eggs and so they started building large barns that will house from 15,000 to 20,000 birds per house. The barns are situated on pasture land and the barns have access doors to allow the chickens out on the pasture.

The problem is chickens are vulnerable to predators like hawks, raccoons, and foxes to name a few. This vulnerability causes them to want to stay inside the shelter of the barns and so very few chickens actually spend any amount of time outside.

Depending on the producer, many of these chickens are still fed a GMO ration. 

Pasture-Raised Eggs - The REAL Way

True, pasture-raised eggs come from chickens who actually spend their lives out on pasture. At Shaded Grove Farm Market we have a small, floorless, portable shelter where the chickens roost at night to keep them safe from nocturnal predators.

The shelter also serves to keep their feed dry and a place to hang their waterers. 

Around the shelter, we place a portable netting that can be energized to keep foxes, raccoons, and other varmints from entering and snacking on chickens. (foxes really like chicken too)

We move the shelter around inside the fenced-in area and once we have covered the area, we pick up the fence and set up a new paddock for the chickens to be in.

This is good for several reasons. Chicken manure is an incredible source of fertilizer and by moving them around the pasture, they are spreading manure and building soil fertility. Chickens also love to eat grass, insects, worms, and whatever else happens to fall prey to them. 

This brings us to our next question.

Why Are Pasture-Raised Egg Yolks Orange? 

The color of the egg yolk is directly related to the diet the chicken is eating. 

Because chickens raised on pasture consume green grass, bugs, and insects, their yolks are a vibrant, healthy orange color.

This color comes from the carotenoids found in grass. For an in-depth article on all things related to carotenoids, read here.

Eggs from chickens consuming diets rich in carotenoids produce much higher levels of omega 3’s and vitamins than chickens housed in confinement and fed rations high in corn and soy.

Feed companies combat this by adding ingredients like paprika and marigold which helps give the egg a nice color but does nothing in terms of adding nutrients to the egg.

Another great question we often get asked is:

How Long Do Pasture-Raised Eggs Last?

The egg laws state that eggs should be consumed within 30 days of when they were washed and packed.

Eggs will be good for longer than that, especially if they come from a farm that packages them the same day they were gathered. Some sources say up to 3-5 weeks after the ‘best by’ date but that isn’t something we can recommend.

Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator at temps below 45 degrees F.

And, last but not least:

Where To Buy Pasture-Raised Eggs?

Build a connection with your local farmer. Ask if you may come out to his farm and see his chickens and gather a dozen eggs. 

There is no better way to know exactly how the eggs you are feeding your family are being raised than to see first hand yourself and build a personal relationship with the farmer.

If the farmer balks at having visitors on his farm and doesn’t want to show you around, maybe that should be a warning sign and you could look for another farmer who will show you his farm.

At Shaded Grove Farm Market we offer our eggs for sale at our on-farm store as well as at our delivery drop-off locations throughout Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Unfortunately, we are not offering them via shipping. 

We are shipping our frozen meat products within a two-day ground area of our farm but have not developed the packaging needed to ship eggs and ensure they arrive un-scrambled. In the future, we plan to offer our eggs for shipping but that will come at a later date.

For now, stop by the farm store or meet us at one of our drop-off locations and we’ll be happy to have you try our ‘true, pasture-raised eggs.’

Happy scrambling,

Craig 

Eggs

Pasture-Raised Eggs

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