I’ve spent more than a few lines on my blog griping about the food that chickens are fed, and how I’m generally dissatisfied with both the chicken and egg quality available, mostly again based on the food that their given. When we went Paleo 3+ years ago, I did an exhaustive analysis of the commercially available eggs, and concluded that I could either not eat the eggs, or eat eggs from soy-fed chickens. At that time, I didn’t have any soy-free egg source available to me. Thankfully, the market is constantly changing, and there are now some reliable sources of pastured eggs which give us some really high quality protein and fats! So I’ve decided to share with you all the results of my re-analysis of the commercially available eggs in the market place.
Here are my three basic premises:
1. Chickens are omnivores, like all birds. “The early bird gets the worm” should be an important part of our understanding of what chickens should be eating. A chicken which has no live animal protein source in it’s diet is not a healthy bird. I am putting that in bold to be perfectly clear about my stance on this. When you see “All vegetarian feed” on chicken and egg labels, that is not a good thing! Chickens need to feed on bugs, just like every other bird!
2. Just like all other animals, soy and whole grains are not quality feed for chickens. They do better with it than cows, but it’s still not quality feed. So in order to satisfy me that the eggs I am getting are truly top-quality, I need to see that the chickens are being fed no soy, and no grains. There are plenty of other commercially available (not as cheap, obviously) food sources to supplement the bugs, beetles, worms, and grubs that they can forage in a farm-yard. Good examples: sprouts, non-grain seeds, berries and nuts, possibly even an apple from time to time.
3. Cage free is an absolute requirement for me. While there may be no option with regards to food, and I’ll simply have to make some “allowances” and just report to you all my findings, I will not make any allowances on Cage Free. There are options available, and there’s no need for cages at all. Chickens will roost naturally, and don’t need to be kept on their roost forcibly.
And finally, what do the experts have to say on the matter?
This is quite possibly the most comprehensive article I’ve ever seen discussing the different poultry production “Marketing Words” that are currently being used in the industry, and what they actually mean. I was floored by some of what I read in here. Sadly, other things were entirely unsurprising. And for added benefit, the author takes the time to recommend places (and not just his own farm) that readers should go look for their poultry products.
I highly recommend this article! What you should know about Poultry Production claims.
Here are the eggs that I’ve had a chance to review to-date:
- Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Ameruacana Eggs
- Handsome Brook Farm Organic Pasture Raised Eggs
- Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Harans Eggs
- Natures Yoke Pastured Eggs
- Vital Farms Pastured Eggs
Here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.
- Pastured, Cage-Free hens
- No hormones or antibiotics
- Certified Organic
- Certified Humane
- Sustainable farm raised
- Soy-Free Feed