Fresh Ideas and the People Who Bring Them to Life
Fresh Idea #7: Fresh Eggs, Part Two: What’s So Good About Pastured Eggs?
Eggs are one of the few complete proteins—meaning they have all nine amino acids. A six-ounce large egg has about 70 grams of protein in addition to Vitamin B 12, A, D and E and a lode of minerals and antioxidants, including folate, iron, zinc, selenium, choline, lutein and zeaxanthin—which help maintain good vision. The fat-fearing generation might not be facing macular degeneration if they included more eggs in their diet.
All 13 of the nutrients found in eggs are in the egg yolk, along with cholesterol, which up-to-date doctors now realize is not a bad thing. The cholesterol in our bodies does not go up when we eat cholesterol-rich foods like eggs.
According to the American Heart Association, the lutein found in egg yolks actually protects against heart disease. For an insightful look at medicine’s new understanding of cholesterol check out in this highly informative blog by Chris Kresser: http://chriskresser.com/the-diet-heart-myth-cholesterol-and-saturated-fat-are-not-the-enemy/. Then go enjoy a couple of eggs, just the way you like them. I suggest you get even more smack for your buck by making them fertile, pastured eggs, like the one’s from Kitty’s Chicken City eggs that I buy every week at the Marin County Farmer’s Market.
As do most organic free-range chicken farmers, Kitty Dolcini houses her hens in mobile coops she moves around her fields anywhere from one to three days a week. Pastureland can only support so many birds per acre. Kitty’s 20 acres, which includes rolling hills and a creek, is home to 1,000 hens. “They’re plenty of work,” says Kitty, “even with outside help to haul water and grain, move the coops and feed and gather the eggs.” Kitty’s had other vocations, including landscape design. But with the help of Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), she was able to return to the farm where she grew up to do what she loves doing.
Kitty’s is a true family farm and she sells the real deal—pastured eggs from a variety of chickens that eat the grasses and bugs they love. They also get the extra protein they need from organic grain. As I pointed out in Part One of this blog, that’s not always the case. Some family farms are paid by large commercial growers to raise free-range eggs in big barns with solar panels. The hens lay more eggs, even in winter, than they normally would. This shortens the chickens’ lives. After a year or two, the birds are routinely gassed and replaced. Kitty hand-checks each bird to see if she’s laying eggs or not. When the time comes she thanks the retiring hen for the eggs she’s provided and for the soup she’s about to become.
Kitty’s Chicken City washes the eggs before putting them in cartons. “When an egg is laid it’s wet,” Kitty tells me. “The bloom is a natural preservative. A few customers want their eggs unwashed, but mostly, I clean them.” Unlike conventional farmers, however, Kitty uses a small amount of baking soda in a big bowl of lukewarm water to clean her eggs and does not apply oil to make them appear shiny.
The doors to the mobile coops at Kitty’s Chicken City are always open. The birds have full-time access to the outdoors and the Anatolian Shepherds that watch over them have 24/7 access to the coops. A few barks from these livestock guardians and bobcats and other predators stay away, but the care and feeding of these giant dogs adds appreciably to Kitty’s costs. Which brings me to my final point: real pastured eggs are worth the price.
I used to balk at paying eight or more dollars for a dozen pastured eggs but I now feel that’s a fair price. Pastured eggs look and taste better and are better for you and our farmland. An article in a recent edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, computed the real cost of a pastured egg, including a small profit for the farmer, at $12 a dozen. The article also pointed out that at the same time the percentage of the American family’s budget has gone from 17 to 8 percent of the family budget, medical costs have increased from 7 to 18 percent of that budget. The author feels that if we want a truly viable and sustainable system, it’s worth paying a dollar per egg for a truly healthful product rather than many thousands of dollars in medical bills. With the cost of eggs going up as conventional farms are plagued with avian flu, spending a bit more for healthy, tasty pastured eggs, like the brown, white, green and rose-colored ones you’ll likely find at your local farmer’s market, makes even more sense.
Note: Find a farmer’s market near you—and a farmer who sells fresh, pastured eggs—at www.localharvest.org or at www.EatWellGuide.org.