Growing up in the high desert, my family had a chicken coop with our own brood of hens. As a little girl, I have fond memories of going to the hen house with a basket to collect the eggs each morning. My mother was my first cooking instructor, and she taught me how to turn these eggs into delicious scrambles and omelets. Eggs continue to be one of my favorite foods. They are extremely versatile and go way beyond the standard scrambles and omelets for breakfast.
I love a fried egg on a tasty dish of pan fried brown rice with veggies and bacon, or on top a pile of roasted broccolini with a little prosciutto and chili flakes. Pan fried, soft boiled, hard boiled and deviled, they are one of my go-to protein sources for breakfast, lunch, dinners and snacks.
In most grocery stores these days you will find a wide variety of different types of eggs. Some of the labeling can be confusing. What exactly is the difference between cage free and pastured eggs for example? Here is a breakdown of some of the different types of egg varieties.
100 % Organic- The hens are fed a diet that is free from any antibiotics, hormones, chemicals pesticides and GMO ingredients. They may be fed a diet that contains corn or soy.
Cage Free- hens are not kept in cages but still may be kept in small, crowded enclosures. They may or may not have access to the outdoors
Free Range-The hens are kept in enclosures with some access to the outdoors, however, the term “free range” is not very regulated and there are no set standards on the amount of time the hens are allowed outdoors. This may mean that they are allowed outdoors for just minutes a day. They do have access to unlimited food and water.
Pasture raised- There are not USDA regulations set for this term yet, however many farms use this term to distinguish from “Free range”. Pasture raised hens usually spend more time outdoors than they do indoors and are free to forage in the grass for plants and insects. They are provided shelter in inclement weather. If the labels say both organic and pasture raised, this means that any feed given to the hens to supplement their diets is free from hormones and antibiotics.
As a person who eats a lot of eggs, I prefer to buy pasture raised and organic eggs to make sure that the eggs that I am eating are the most nutritious that I can get, and the hens that supply them lead the best life possible. In fact, pasture raised eggs have been shown to have 2/3 more vitamin A, twice as much omega-3, and seven times more beta carotene than conventionally raised eggs. All you have to do see the difference is to crack open the shell to see the deep orange color of pasture raised yolks (compared to the pale-yellow yolks of conventional eggs) One of my favorite brands for these eggs is Vital Farms “alfresco eggs” which are available at Whole Foods, Sprouts and Mother’s Market.