Sunday, October 3, 2010

Egg Primer

Let's talk about eggs. The picture above speaks volumes on the difference between a store bought egg and a free range egg. Unfortunately the only way to tell is to crack one open. Supermarkets probably would not take kindly to your "opening" an egg before you buy it determine its quality.
Here's the scoop. A confined chicken laying eggs for the supermarket are low in ohmega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium. And high in ohmega-6 fatty acids and fat. The color of the yolk is just your second indication of the quality and healthiness of your egg. The first is the shell. When you crack open an eggshell does it break easily; is it paper thin; do little chunks fly off into your frying pan or cake batter? Store bought, confined chicken egg. Free range eggs have a thicker shell, harder to crack, fewer or no bits falling into your skillet or cake batter. Higher calcium content accounts for this. Documentation to this effect can be found from several reliable sources on the internet or in books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Here's the rub. Since the USDA has gotten into the regulation of the organic foods industry the word "organic" has lost some of its umph! Now, to qualify as a free-range egg the chickens must have "access" to open air and day light. This is accomplished by mega-farms only after shutting the chickens up for around 6 weeks in a coop. Then a door is opened allowing the hens, if they want to, to roam around a small yard attached to the outside of the coop. The problem with this is; a chicken is, as are many of the people you know, creatures of habit with very little brains, and little to no capacity for abstract thought. The chicken quickly settles into a routine, during its six week confinement, of not going outside. It thinks (I use this term loosely) going outside is abnormal and remains confined of its own free will. But still qualifies as a "free range chicken".
What does one do to insure one is getting the healthiest egg and chicken possible from happy chickens practicing their chicken-ness?
One buys eggs from a local farmer that one trusts. A farmer that welcomes visitors who want to see where their food comes from and how the farmer treats the animals. This is the only way, short of opening an egg in the grocery store to see if you are getting what you need in the way of protein, calcium, and the ohmega-3 fatty acids you need to balance the body and control the weight.
Just Say No to Storebought Eggs!

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