Let’s talk eggs!

Hello, hello. If you’re stopping by here to check out this week’s CEiMB recipe of pancakes with nutty topping, I actually made it last September and you can find it here. :) I recall liking it although the topping was a tad bit too sweet. I’m not a big honey fan though, so I would definitely make it again with more maple syrup instead of honey. Yummy. I’ve craving pancakes now. 😆

So yeah, this post is exactly one week late, but it is a post I really wanted to write despite the delay. Last week I attended a really fun dinner hosted by Kitchenbelle and Egg-land’s Best. About 30 Boston bloggers attended this dinner, so there is a very high probability that you’ve already read a recap on one (or more) of these bloggers’ blogs. So don’t worry – this is not really an event recap post. This dinner made me think of a subject that I would really like to bring up on this blog… and of course get your opinions on. Let’s talk eggs!

Egg-land’s Best organized a really clever dinner with the “breakfast for dinner” theme. I have to say, I know many of you are breakfast fanatics and love breakfast for dinner, but I am not completely sold on it. I’m all for a frittata or something like that, but fruit + french toast… not so much. The bloody Marys, however, I was not complaining about. 😉 So spicy and delicious. I had one with vodka and another virgin one.

The dinner was held at one of my favorite restaurants in Boston – Stella, and together with Egg-land’s Best the chefs created a very interesting menu. Yes, eggs really are incredibly versatile.

Deviled eggs:

Stella Chop Salad with chicken, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, bacon, and red onion

Duck Omelet with duck confit, crumbled goat cheese, mushrooms, and baby spinach

Linguini “Carbonara” with poached egg, smoke bacon, and Parmesan

French Toast with warm Vermont maple syrup

Chocolate Torte with vanilla gelato and chocolate sauce

Everything was delicious. I love Stella and I love eggs. In between all the eating, we were bombarded with information about eggs and of course Egg-land’s Best eggs, which the Company claims are “the best.”

Things I liked:

  • Eggs are nutritional power houses (loaded with vitamins) and are a great, cheap protein source (even premium eggs when compared to meat sources)
  • Egg-land’s Best chickens are fed a nutritious diet so that the eggs are nutritionally superior to other brands one may find in a grocery store. Chickens are always fed a 100% vegetarian diet. Egg-land’s Best eggs have 75% more Vitamin B12 than regular eggs, 4x more Vitamin D than regular eggs, 10x more than regular eggs, more than 50% more Vitamin A than regular eggs, 3x more Omega 3 fatty acids than regular eggs, 25% less saturated fat than regular eggs. Impressive stats!

Things I heard that did not impress me – in fact are making me drastically change my ways…

Do you know the difference between factory farmed vs. cage free vs. organic eggs? Let me give you a quick summary so we’re all on the same page here. :)

Factory farmed eggs – chickens are packed in cages (often to the point where they can hardly move!), there are no windows in facilities so factory farmed chickens never see daylight; chickens often consume feed animal byproducts (<– not the case with Egg-land’s Best chickens) and GMO crops; chickens are often de-beaked to prevent harming each other which is incredibly painful for them; chickens and eggs are pumped with antibiotics to discourage infections.

Cage free eggs – chickens are not raised in cages, although they may still be packed in right on the floor and they do not have access to the outdoors. Windows must be included in the facilities. There is no difference in the feed of cage free chickens vs. factory farmed. Antibiotics use is usually the same as in factory farming.

Organic eggs -significant differences cover feed, medication, and animal welfare. Organic hens are fed organic feed; it is prohibited to feed animal byproducts or GMO crops – which is not discontinued in free range environments; no antibiotics allowed except in emergencies; guaranteed animal welfare standards in organic farms (source: wikipedia). Chickens must have access to the outdoors.

Humane treatment of animals is very important to me so that’s why we’ve been buying organic eggs as soon as I found out that “cage free” is not a picture of chickens roaming around the fields, popping eggs in their merry ways. However, do you see the portion that I italicized – guaranteed animal welfare standards in organic farms? I was under the impression that meant something but apparently that’s up for interpretation and the minimal required standards are well… minimal. In my mind, chickens finally were no longer confined in small dark cages, they were not eating animal byproduts, which indirectly I would be consuming through those eggs…

… and then we asked Egg-land’s Best to talk about the size of a room organic chickens are in vs. the outdoor space they are allowed and I realized the reality of it all. Guess what? Egg-land’s Best and I’m sure most large corporations (Egg-land’s Best is by faaaaar the largest – they are the only national egg company) found loop holes in the rules (at least that’s how I see it). Yes, organic chickens are eating organic feed (good), no antibiotics are generally allowed (good) but the chickens are still spending majority of their lives in very confined spaces inside. There is a door at the end of the room that gives them access to a tiny piece of land, so now the Company can check the box that says “access to outdoor space provided.” Can most chickens even get there? Do they know what outdoor is? I was having nightmare-ish visions of packed “organic” chickens on top of each other with a little piece of grass outside and one chicken who discovered “the light”. Maybe I’m dramatic but something tells me that’s not very far from the truth when it comes to (chicken and) egg production by large corporations. It’s factory farming and the organic label is just another way for them to make extra profits. I mean, if the company believed in truly humane treatment, quality nutrition, etc. – wouldn’t all their chickens be raised under organic standards? That would be quite the statement for the largest egg producing company with national reach. But no, they choose to do the most economical thing (read: packing chickens in) while still charging consumers for premium eggs with “superior quality.” [Btw, Egg-land’s Best, you know that stress-free chickens produce even higher quality eggs? Maybe that’s something to consider!]

So what’s my conclusion? Am I becoming a vegan now? No. I still believe that eggs are a great nutritional source and I strongly believe that you can consume an omnivore diet if you educate yourself about the sources from which your food comes from. Some companies are passionate about the environment, about truly humane animal treatment, about sustainable practices. I would like to continue supporting such companies. In the summer and early fall, I buy most of my produce and eggs at the farmers market. I talk to the producers; I know exactly how the vegetables are grown and what the egg-producing chickens are eating (I can even visit the farms in many cases although admittedly I haven’t done that yet – maybe a road trip is in order this summer :) ). I can see the passion in the farmers eyes and it’s not $$ they are after. After this dinner, I am making it a priority to *always* purchase eggs at the farmers markets or from local shops that buy their eggs from local farms. Local eggs are available in most places year-round – you just have to get creative about sourcing them.

So that’s my “recap.” The dinner was indeed quite lovely and the Egg-land’s Best reps were super nice and passionate. I just don’t feel that the company stands for the same values as I do. What kind of eggs do you buy? Do you care about humane treatment of chickens? If so, what are you doing about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. :mrgreen:

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24 comments to Let’s talk eggs!

  • This is eye opening and an excellent reminder. Local farm eggs may be more expensive and a little more difficult to get, but I feel so much better about eating them!!

  • sister inna

    wow…. just wow.
    it makes me angry when corporations use the guise of being healthy + friendly to the planet to make money, all the while loopholing their way out of actually doing the responsible thing ( the very thing they advertise themselves to stand for).
    this is all very sad.
    thanks so much for the info

  • Wow! That’s so informational! Thanks so much for sharing the difference between organic and cage free, as well as how some egg producers are finding “loop holes” in the organic regulations. I love eggs and would love to know that when I buy them, I am promoting the humane treatment of animals. I wonder if Trader Joe’s brand organic eggs and other producers of “organic” eggs are practicing the same strategies as Eggland’s Best. Hmmm.

  • eggs are always AMAZING :) I use them in so many different ways! Adding egg whites to oatmeal really helps add volume!

  • That Blood Mary looks fantastic! So does the food at the event!

  • Yum, I’ll take the french toast!! I buy EB eggs myself. I just trusted that they are the best. Thank you for the informative post!!

  • I only buy organic eggs. I might try looking for some local eggs after reading this post…

  • I love your post on this. I’ve read a lot about food and nutrition because I’m a huge dork…if you want to read further you’d probably love books like What to Eat by Marion Nestle and The Ethics of What We Eat. Both are really interesting books and in my opinion, pretty fair and balanced. They give you a lot of interesting information without pushing any one agenda too far. One thing that the books talked about, which you highlight here, is just how confusing egg labeling is. There are so many labels and many don’t mean anything.

    I used to love getting eggs from the farmers’ market for the same reason. I could ask questions about the things that were important to me (i.e. are their beaks soddered off, etc.). It’s definitely very confusing and I wish they would make the labeling more transparent because I do believe that a lot of consumers WANT to make good choices, but that the wording is very confusing and sometimes just marketing spin.

  • Elina

    Kelly – I just picked up “The ethics of what we eat” at the library a few days ago. I think you recommended it to me before. I can’t wait to read it. Adding that other book to my list now too :) Ignorance is bliss sometimes, but I don’t want to be ignorant even if it’s uncomfortable.

  • Liz

    Hmm… I usually buy Egglands Best because they are the only organic eggs my store offers other than the store brand (which is not always available). I don’t have access to a good farmer’s market on a regular basis, so are there any other egg companies you would recommend? I wonder how I could “investigate” this before I buy eggs? I thought I was doing a good thing to buy the organic Egglands Best over the typical store brand regular eggs so it’s disappointing to hear that the claims on the carton are just made to meet the bare minimum requirement.

  • Erin

    Often when egg companies say that their chickens are allowed access to the outside, it means that the chicks were kept inside for the first several weeks of their lives with zero outside access and then the farmers open a tiny little door, but the chickens never venture out because they have no idea what “outside” even is. It’s a tricky little ruse the farmers are able to play. That’s why buying direct from your local farmer is really the best way to really know that you are getting a healthy product and the chickens are living a healthy lifestyle. Have you read any of Michael Pollan’s books (esp The Omnivore’s Dilemna)?

  • Elina

    Liz – I don’t know of any “safe” brands for eggs. I actually was going to check out the brands available at WF next time I go and do research on those, although our farmers markets open up next Tuesday so I really can just go directly to the farmers for eggs. I also know a few boutiques nearby (out of my way but doable) that sell local eggs. Maybe you can do a bit of research in your area, if it’s important for you that the chickens that produce the eggs you eat are treated humanely. I think a little bit of research will go a long way once you know you options. I hope you find something! 😀

    Erin – I read In Defense of Food but haven’t read The Omnivore’s Dilemma yet. I find his books to be informative but so dry. It takes me ages to get through them. A good thing to bring on a long flight or something when you’re stuck. haha

  • Thanks for posting about this! I do mostly buy Egglands Best eggs when it comes to getting store bought eggs but my brother raises chickens and so I try to get them from him during the egg laying season.

    Large corporations will ALWAYS be looking for more money even if it means using loosely worded laws to get away with things. I do like knowing what the chickens are fed and that they aren’t suffering without beaks but I can’t imagine that they have great lives despite it all.

  • I make an effort to buy cage free organic. I do not feel like it changes the nutrition of the egg to a serious extent, but I do believe the animal lives a better life which is what I would concern myself with

  • egglands eggs are SO good! and I want to go to stella RIGHT NOW!!

  • The best eggs are “pasture raised” (i.e., allowed to roam free outside in pastures like real chickens were meant to in the wild) which you can’t really find at most stores. I believe Whole Foods in my area sells one brand of cage free, organic, pasture-raised eggs. They are very, very expensive (at least 50 cents an egg) but worth it if you are concerned about this sort of thing. Nutritionally, the big thing about pasture raised eggs is they have a more varied diet that includes bugs, grubs, etc. as well as grains. A lot of people buy the “vegetarian diet” eggs (I admit I used to!) because they assume this is better since the chickens aren’t fed other ground-up chickens or other random animal products, but in fact wild chickens are omnivores that eat insects as well as grasses and grains. This gives the eggs better taste and much, much better nutrition because they have high omega 3s and lower omega 6s.

    I can’t wait until this summer, as I just joined a CSA and they sell pasture-raised eggs for cheaper than you can get at a store. Yay!

  • I feel pretty fortunate to have my own chickens, despite living in a quasi-city. No questions about their treatment this way – I even know the name of the hen from whenceforth my breakfast sprung :)
    Corporations, by definition, will find a way to make profit. I do not think it is truly possible for a large corporation or business to ever be completely ethical. That’s why we need to start moving away from big buying and big consumption – you never fully know who (or what) you’re screwing over with your dollar.

  • oh god isnt it amazing how eggs are so versatile.. its almost hard to NOT like them since u can have them any way u like hehe. i buy mine locally.. veg fed and organic. i try my best to support the local guys.. keeping them in business.

  • […] Let's talk eggs! « Healthy and Sane – A healthy lifestyle blog […]

  • I love ’em. Any way I can get them! And I do buy organic. Nice tutorial on the difference.

  • Can You Tell The Difference?

    “Free-Range” Hen

    • Debeaked with a hot bloody blade at one day old with no anesthetic.

    • Force molted (intentionally starved to shock the body into another laying cycle).

    • Violently packed into a semi and trucked hundreds of miles to an agonizing slaughter when considered “spent” (unable to keep laying eggs at a fast enough pace).

    • Denied the opportunity to live a natural life in truly humane care.

    • All of her brothers (roosters) are brutally killed as baby chicks simply because they can’t lay eggs.

    Battery Cage Hen

    • Debeaked with a hot bloody blade at one day old with no anesthetic.

    • Force molted (intentionally starved to shock the body into another laying cycle).

    • Violently packed into a semi and trucked hundreds of miles to an agonizing slaughter when considered “spent” (unable to keep laying eggs at a fast enough pace).

    • Denied the opportunity to live a natural life in truly humane care.

    • All of her brothers (roosters) are brutally killed as baby chicks simply because they can’t lay eggs.

  • […] Are there loopholes in dairy organics? No. For the first time in history the laws are actually being enforced and if you see an organic you can trust that the products are free or pesticides, antibiotics and the animals are humainely treated (get access to pasture, graze, etc.). This is reassuring to me given what I recently learned about organic egg farming. […]

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