The United States Department of Agriculture offers this definition:
FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING: Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.
But “allowing access” doesn’t mean much. A small door in a barn with thousands of chickens technically gives chickens an opportunity to go outside, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll have access to grass (it may only be a concrete slab). For chickens to produce the most healthful and flavorful eggs and meat, they need to be able to eat a variety of green plants, seeds and bugs. Unfortunately, you can’t tell how the chickens live by reading the package in a store. I’d encourage you to find a local farmer who raises poultry on pasture.
— Troy Griepentrog, associate editor
10/15/2008 3:37:53 PM
By Tabitha Alterman
Tags: free-range eggs, egg tests, pastured poultry, grazing livestock, egg nutrition, vitamin D
The results from Mother Earth News’ latest round of pastured egg nutrient tests are beginning to come in. So far, pastured egg producers are kicking the commercial industry’s butt — woo hoo, go free range! We’ve invested a lot of time and energy over the last few years in researching the differences between the meat and eggs coming out of the commercial industry and those produced by conscientious farmers who let their animals graze on fresh pastures. In the past, we’ve found that eggs from hens raised on pasture, as compared to those commercially raised factory farm eggs, contain:
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol • 1⁄4 less saturated fat• 2⁄3 more vitamin A• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids• 3 times more vitamin E• 7 times more beta carotene
Now we’re looking at vitamin D, which many of us do not get enough of because we don’t spend any time outdoors, and even when we do we use sunscreen that blocks vitamin D production. (More about that here.) Eggs are one of the few food sources of naturally occurring vitamin D, and we wondered if true free-range eggs might be higher in this important vitamin, too. Our latest tests show that pastured eggs have anywhere between 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs.So … (1) Get out there and eat some fresh farm eggs! and (2) Check out our ongoing pastured egg research here.