|Eggs from pastured chickens ready to cook in the skillet.|
Mother Earth News conducted the Mother Earth News egg testing project, a research project in which 14 flocks from around the country were allowed to free-range on open pastures or were moved around in moveable pens. The eggs were sent to an accredited research facility in Portland, Oregon, where research was conducted on the eggs nutritional content. Results released in 2007 concluded that eggs from chickens allowed to roam on pastures may contain:
1/3 less cholesterol;
1/4 less in saturated fat; and had,
2/3 more Vitamin A;
2 times more omega-3 fatty acids;
3 times more Vitamin E;
7 times more beta carotene;
4-6 times more Vitamin D;
in comparison to conventional USDA eggs.
A study conducted by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and published January 2010 on-line in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems substantiates some of Mother Earth News claims. In the Penn State study, Vitamins A, E, and fatty acid composition of caged hens and pastured hens, there were striking differences in the eggs. Heather Karsten, associate professor of crop production ecology at Penn State, said, "Compared to egg of the commercial hens, eggs from pastured hens eggs had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids...Vitamin A concentration was 38 percent higher in the pastured hens' eggs than in commercial hens' eggs, but total Vitamin A per egg did not differ." At the conclusion of the experiment, it was noted that pastured hens weighed 14 percent less than commercial hens and averaged 15 percent lower egg production.
Raising your own backyard chickens or purchasing eggs from a reliable, pesticide-free, free-ranging farm is a great way to obtain a nutrient-rich food source. If purchasing eggs, know that they will be slightly more expensive than commercially-produced eggs. But, if you are what you eat, the decision should be an easy one.