Pastured Eggs


Above left: Grocery Store Organic Egg vs the Pastured Egg shown on the Right
You may wonder why my recipes call for “Pastured Eggs”; aren’t all eggs the same?  The answer to that is a resounding NO!   With so many choices, it’s hard to know which eggs to buy; Pastured, Free Range, Free Roaming, Cage Free, Vegetarian Diet, etc.  This posting will explain why I choose pastured eggs for my family, and why I call for them in my recipes.  I will also discuss the difference between the many types of eggs available.  For those who might be interested in adding these nutritional jewels to your diet I am including links that will direct you to local sources for pastured eggs. 

A Pastured Egg is from a Chicken that roams freely, eating a natural diet and spending its days soaking up Vitamin D from the sun.  Since chickens are omnivores, their natural diet consists of bugs, worms, grubs, and whatever else they can scratch up in the pasture.  Pastured chickens are not supplemented with soy or grains, nor are they given antibiotics or growth hormones; they are living as chickens were meant to live, or at least how chickens lived before Factory Farming began in the late 1920’s.  Cost of pastured eggs vary, but I pay $4.00 per dozen which if you do the math is 33 cents an egg.
Organic Free Range or Free Roaming Eggs come from chickens which according to the USDA Fact Sheet must have access to the outdoors.  The agency states that “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside”. Free Range chickens are typically cramped in large sheds or barns that do not have windows, and they rarely go outside.  When these chickens do venture out there is often nothing for them to eat, as these farming operations typically set their sheds on large slabs of concrete.  These operations give their chicken’s feed, typically made from soy and corn.  Wait, didn’t we just say that chickens are not vegetarians?  On the brighter side these chickens are not given antibiotics or growth hormones.  While factory farm eggs are approximately $1.50 a dozen, organic free range eggs cost on average $3.50 a dozen. 

Cage Free Eggs are from chickens that are not confined to battery cages.  The birds are maintained on the floor of a poultry house, but are always raised indoors.  The term Cage Free was developed as a commercial designation and is not recognized nor designated by the USDA.  In case you are wondering, the price of 1 dozen Cage Free eggs is approximately $2.95.
Vegetarian Diet on your egg carton (or even on packaged chicken) simply means that chickens are fed a diet of soy, corn, corn gluten, linseed, etc.   We’ve already stated that chickens are omnivores, so feeding this type of diet frequently produces an undernourished chicken.  Undernourished chickens will produce eggs with a lower nutritional value.  Please also remember that for those who are sensitive to grains these eggs can cause a reaction, as they do in my son.  Remember, you are what you eat.
Front: Organic Egg, Rear: Pastured Egg
Front: Organic Egg, Rear: Pastured Egg
Studies show that Pastured Eggs are more nutrient dense than Factory Farmed Eggs purchased at the grocery store.  While the study I am referring to is a few years old, very little has changed in factory farming techniques since its publication and I believe the data is still worthy of posting.  This study published in Mother Earth News found that Pastured Eggs contain:  7 times more Beta Carotene, 2/3 more Vitamin A, 3 times more Vitamin E, and 2 times more Omega 3’s. The following is a graphic which clearly shows the difference, http://www.motherearthnews.com/uploadedFiles/EggGraphic.pdf  I am also including the link to the original article that was published in Mother Earth News, http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-Healthier-Eggs.aspx
Keep the following in mind; good, better, and best.  I believe the best choice is pastured eggs, but if you must purchase eggs from the grocery store choose eggs with the most Omega 3’s and DHA.  I would also suggest that you look for Organic Eggs as these come from chickens which are not given antibiotics or growth hormones.  For those who are ready to purchase Pastured Eggs, a good place to start your search would be your local farms, farmer markets, or health food stores.  Remember, a good farmer will be happy to share how his/her animals are fed, raised and cared for.  Also remember most farmers will be delighted to answer your questions.  If you can’t find pastured eggs locally, search Eat Wild  http://www.eatwild.com/ or Local Harvest  http://www.localharvest.org/.
3 Pastured Eggs, notice the dark orange yolks.
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6 responses to Pastured Eggs


  1. I’m glad you found a diet that works for you. I thoroughly agree – pastured eggs are the best out there. In reading your article I noticed you said ‘pastured chickens are not supplemented with soy or grains’. I raise pastured chickens for meat and eggs to sell locally and I’ve been doing research on the subject of grain free chickens for a year now. I haven’t found anyone – except in remote permaculture circles on a very small scale – who raises chickens commercially with zero grain. If you’re positive that the eggs you get are truly grain free I’d love to talk with the farmer. Otherwise, I would suggest asking the farmer what he or she feeds the chickens if you haven’t already.

    I don’t mean to be rude, I just wanted to clarify that in my experience there are very few – less than 1% – grain free chickens out there.

    • Laura

      Rebecca, thank you for your comment and for sharing with the readers how very important it is to do your homework. This is truly a case of buyer beware, and I am grateful that my Farmers are not only stewards of their land, but their livestock and poultry.

  2. Ryan

    I have to agree with Rebecca. I only know of one farm in the USA that advertises as selling 100% grain-free eggs and meat birds. Otherwise, I would estimate 99.99% of “pastured” chickens/eggs are supplemented with some form or grain, whether it’s organic or not, or soy/corn free, it will have other grains such as wheat, oats, millet, rice bran, etc. Please let me know if you know of any farms that actually raise and sell truly grain-free chicken eggs and/or meat. Thanks!

    • Laura

      Ryan, thank you for your response and question. My local farmers supplement during the cold months but do not use grains in their feed. My Grandmother supplemented with oyster shell and salmon, something she learned from the Amish. I would suggest searching your area through a site such as Eat Wild and talk with your local farmers. I hope your farmers will be as forthcoming as ours. http://www.eatwild.com/PRODUCTS/index.html

      • Ryan

        Hi Laura. Thanks for your reply! Being such an old post, I wasn’t excepting one. Are you able to share exactly what is included in your local farm’s supplemental feed? Also, where are you located? I am in Southern California, and the farm I was referring to is Rainbow Ranch Farms. I always ask or read what small locals farmers feed their animals. 100% Grass-fed beef is relatively easy to find. Pastured pigs and chickens that are NOT fed supplement grains, almost impossible. I have also lived in CO, OH, and WI. It’s the same in those places as well.

        • Laura

          Ryan, we are in Virginia, so that may be the difference. The Farms that I use allow the chickens to scratch/forage even during the winter months but they expect that Egg Production will be greatly reduced (as is the availability of eggs and chicken). Most farms do supplement but it is typically with a Fish meal. I am truly lucky to have great farms in my area where the farmers are stewards of the land and animals. I have access to free range poultry/eggs, as well as pastured beef, and pork. We also have our own garden for vegetables in the warmer months and I use the seeds that my Father and Grandmother used (you could say that they are older than dirt). Good luck in your quest to find your eggs/chicken.

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