The Wonderful Egg

The egg, so beautiful in its shape and color and however you prepare it, it is absolutely delicious.

Before I started raising chickens, I thought that eggs came in only two colors, white and brown. I had no idea the rainbow you could have in your egg basket. From white to chocolate brown, with different shades in between. And depending on the breed of chicken, you can also get green or blue.

The egg is a very versatile food. It can be the main dish, or on the side. It is used to glaze, thicken, and bind. It goes with almost anything like a nice juicy steak, or hardboiled and mixed with potatoes to make a salad. Not only is the egg very versatile, it is packed full of nutrition. (more on that later)

But beware not all eggs are the same. Unless you know the chicken keeper you are getting your eggs from, you’re probably not getting the best this food has to offer. The eggs you buy at the store, come in a nice clean package, but what is inside that shell, may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Labeling

The commercial side of selling eggs is all about the money. They will say anything on the label to get you to buy their brand. But if you are aware of these tactics, then they can’t lead you astray.

Cage Free – Sounds nice, doesn’t it. We all know how factory chickens are kept, and most of us try to avoid buying those eggs. But cage free isn’t much better. Yes, they get to walk around and perch and lay their egg in a nest. But they do this in huge barns with artificial lighting never getting to feel the sunshine on their feathers or chase and eat bugs. Or nibble on green grass or dust bathe in the sand. They are fed a cheap diet, and because of the overcrowding, are killed by the other hens.

Free-Range –  This sounds much better, but unfortunately it isn’t that much better at all. Yes, they are cage free with access to the outdoors, but this is often just a screened porch area, no dirt or grass. So yes, they get some fresh air and sunlight, but again no access to green grass or the bugs they love to eat. Unless you know the farmer, the term free range means nothing. I free range my chickens, and it means something totally different than what is on the label of the carton you see at the store.

Organic – This is a little better than others, but not by much. The rules for getting this label are more strict than the others, but these chickens really don’t fare much better. These chickens are cage free with access to the outdoors, but really about the same as free range. They are fed a strict organic diet, but this is usually vegetarian. Chickens are omnivores, so this isn’t really that great of a diet for them. The best eggs are from chickens with access to the outdoors all day. Where they can eat grass, weeds, plants and bugs.

Pasture Raised – If you have to buy your eggs from the store, this is the label to look for. These chickens get to roam all day or most of the day. They get to eat bugs and scratch in the grass. But if you can, buy directly from the farmer. You get to see how their chickens are cared for. You get to see how healthy the hen is, and the conditions they live in.

Nutrition

It used to be stated as fact that eggs were bad for you. But the truth has slowly been coming out about how nutritionally dense this food really is. It used to be said that the fat and the cholesterol in the yoke of the egg was bad for you, so people separate their eggs, toss the yoke and only eat the whites. But the yoke is where all the good stuff is, especially from hens that have access to the outdoors all day.

The yoke contains vitamin A, D, E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, B6, Folate, B12, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Zink, and Selenium. Farm raised eggs have 3-4 times the vitamin D than hens that are kept indoors. The saturated fat in yolks is also necessary for hormone production and the body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals. The egg white contains Sodium, Potassium, Protein and Magnesium. So as you can see the whole egg is packed with nutrition, not just the white.

The Shell

The egg shell can come in a variety of color, sizes, and shapes. I have hens that lay large dark brown ones, and hens that lay tiny cream or tan colored ones. Some are long with a pointy end, and some are more rounded with hardly a point at all. But regardless of the color, size or shape, this does not determine the taste or the nutritional value of the egg. That is determined by the hens overall diet and health.

All eggs are created white. The color of the egg is actually a pigment that is applied to the shell along the hen’s reproductive tract. If you crack open a brown egg, you will see that it is white on the inside. Blue and green eggs are a little different. The pigment is added earlier in the process so the pigment seeps into the shell and when you crack them open, you will see the color on the inside and out.

Just before the egg is laid, a thin almost invisible layer is applied to the shell called the *bloom*. This thin layer protects the egg from any bacteria making its way inside through the many pores of the shell. The shell is made up of tiny little holes where air circulates through the egg for the baby chick possibly growing inside. If you are one that washes their eggs then stores them, you are washing off this protective layer. It’s not really if you wash your eggs, but when. If you wait and wash them right before you use them, then there is no time for bacteria to get inside.

The shell is made of Calcium Carbonate, Magnesium Carbonate, Calcium Phosphate, and protein. When crushed up, they are a good calcium supplement for your chickens instead of oyster shell. I clean and crush up my used shells and feed to my hens free choice.

However you crack it, the egg is amazing. Fried or scrambled or made into an omelet. Hardboiled and eaten right out of the shell or put into a salad. The egg is wonderful, beautiful and packed full of nutrition. Hmm, I think I’ll go make me some eggs right now! 🙂

 

 

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