Here at The Natural Poultry Farming Guide, we only endorse free range poultry farming. We only endorse natural products and methodologies and want all farmed chickens to kept in an open free ranging environment and to move away from the cruel intensive battery farming methods of old. All our chickens live in a free ranging environment, with lots of room to move and grow. This great little song by Gene Burnett vocalizes our love of free range chickens.
Eggs & Health
Throughout the centuries, the egg has been a potent symbol of purity, health and fertility. Eggs are amazing. They’re healthy, full of nutrition, and when produced by contented and happy hens, pose no risks. Today, we discuss raw eggs and compare battery raised eggs, which have caused such a bad reputation, with the real thing: eggs from pasteurized chickens.
One of the fears peddled about eggs is the idea that they are dangerous if eaten raw, because they may contain salmonella. However, salmonella exists in eggs only when laid by unhealthy chickens. If the hens are disease-free, so are their eggs. And the incidences of salmonella are greatly reduced in free range hens.
Mayonnaise is traditionally made from raw eggs. If it had been dangerous, what is the likelihood that mayonnaise would have become one of the representatives of great French cookery? Look in any serious recipe book for how to make mayonnaise, and you’ll find that it always includes raw egg. Enter the words mayonnaise and recipe on a search engine, and you’ll see recipe after recipe, all of which use raw eggs. Could mayonnaise be so ubiquitous if it were dangerous?
Do be aware, of course, that modern mayonnaise purchased in supermarkets is not made from raw eggs. That’s why it has extra ingredients, such as stabilizers, emulsifiers, and thickeners, which can include:
- Guar or Xanthan Gum: Naturally derived, but so processed by the time it gets to the mayo that it’s really nothing more than chemicals.
- Modified Maize (Corn) Starch: This is to thicken the mayo, since it can’t happen with cooked eggs. There’s a double whammy here. It isn’t simply corn starch, but has been processed, which is why the word modified has been added. The other is that nearly all corn used in processed foods is genetically modified by the addition of a gene that acts as a pesticide.
- Carrageenan: Sulphated polysaccharide, extracted from seaweed, used to set the mayo.
- Cellulose: Non-food made from the fibrous parts of plants and trees.
- Polysorbate: Chemical used to control texture in some “foods” and cosmetics.
Stunning, isn’t it, what must be added to make mayonnaise because battery raised eggs aren’t safe unless cooked?
As a child, my favorite breakfast was my mother’s milkshake: milk, raw egg, and fruit quickly mixed in a blender. It was yummy, and never anything but healthy. That was, of course, before the days of battery hens.
It’s always possible that an egg from a free range chicken could prove to have salmonella, but those instances are exceedingly rare and far less likely that eating battery-raised eggs. Besides, the benefits of eating healthy eggs from healthy hens extends to your immune system. So, if you normally eat eggs from free range and organically-fed chickens, especially if they’re locally sourced, then your body will likely have the ability to fend off salmonella bacteria. If you’ve been eating eggs from battery hens, then you’ve been compromising your immune system with antibiotics and other drugs that have gone through the chickens into the eggs.
So, assuming that we’re considering only eggs from healthy chickens raised on pastures, are raw eggs better for you? The jury seems to be out on that right now. There is currently a strong movement towards raw foods in general, with Natural News being a major proponent. However, the Weston A. Price Foundation has long been an exceptionally reliable source of information on nutritional issues, and their stance is that cooked eggs are just fine. The Foundation notes accurately that egg whites are healthier when cooked. Raw egg whites have an enzyme inhibitor that can be harmful to digestion. In most people eating no more than two eggs a day, this is normally not a significant problem. However, in larger quantities, it can matter. Also, be aware that raw egg whites are never good for cats.
My own take is that the jury really is out on the question of raw eggs’ nutritional value compared to cooked. The raw food movement may miss some important points, such as the beneficial changes in fermenting some foods, like soy, which can remove their poisonous aspects and and release their benefits. Most mushrooms do not release some of their most important nutrients unless they’re well-cooked. Though raw food is generally healthier than cooked, there are exceptions. Egg whites are certainly one of them.
Claims are made that some nutrients are damaged by heating eggs, especially yolks. Thus far, though, I’ve not seen documentation that convinces me one way or the other. (If a reader has anything, please send it along.)
Nutrient Differences in Conventional Eggs Compared to Free Range Eggs
The comparison between conventional battery-raised eggs and free ranges eggs is stunning. Mother Earth News had free ranges eggs tested to see what their nutrient levels are and compared the results to the official USDA data for commercial eggs.
The results varied from farm to farm, but the average free range egg results showed:
- 1⁄3 less cholesterol
- 1⁄4 less saturated fat
- 2⁄3 more vitamin A
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
- 21 times more omega-3 fatty acid
Keep in mind that these eggs were from hens that Mother Earth News considers legitimately free range. They spend all or most of their lives outdoors, roosting in trees if they choose. This is not what is usually meant by free range eggs in supermarkets. Usually, those eggs are from chickens that can hardly be distinguished from battery-raised ones. The requirements for the free range label are laughable, with only limited access to the outdoors—and that does not mean pasture—and often nearly as crowded as those labeled battery-raised. As often as not, the outdoors that supermarket “free range” birds see has no grass, but only concrete under their feet, and no real space to roam.
Here are the results of Mother Earth News’ results of 7 of the 14 free ranges chicken eggs in their 2007 testing:
|Eggs from Confined Birds (USDA Nutrient Database)
|Free-range Egg Averages
Mother earth News, 2007
Mixed Non-Hybrid Breeds
|Shady Grove Farm/
Hurdle Mills, NC;
|Norton Creek Products;
|Skagit River Ranch;
Sedro Woolley, WA;
|Spring Mountain Farms;
Troutville, VA; Rhode Island Reds
The other 7 tested egg varieties are not included because Vitamin A and Beta Carotene were not tested.
With nutritional results like these, it’s obvious that the best eggs are genuine free range.
Mother Earth News states that the Egg Nutrition Council stated in their 2005 report on the high nutrient levels in eggs:
Barring special diets or breeds, egg nutrients are most likely similar for egg-laying hens, no matter how they are raised.
Obviously, there’s a bit of double-speak in that statement. As the egg-testing results above show, hens that live relatively natural lives—that is, living outdoors in a natural environment and foraging for food—produce eggs that are far superior to those from chickens subjected to factory farming.
Mother Earth News also reported that experiments with the same kinds of hens produce superior eggs when they’re pastured. So, the right choice for your health and the right moral choice are the same: Eggs from free range pastured hens are superior in every way. They’re tastier, more nutritious, and safer.
Why are free range eggs better than store bought eggs?
Eggs from free range hens are infinitely better than store bought eggs. They’ve got more omegas, beta carotene‘s, just in general, they’re a thousand times better. But in order to have free range eggs, you have to let your chickens free range and that means letting them eat plenty of grasses, bugs and all the things you find in your back yard.
True free range birds eat a chickens natural diet, which includes all kinds of seeds, green plants, insects and worms. Factory farm birds never get to see the outdoors, and that means they don’t get to forage for their natural diet. That leads to unhappy and unhealthy chickens and inferior eggs.
One of the disadvantages of free ranging your hens is that every now and then you’ll find a hen that wants to roost in your backyard, randomly. Or sometimes they’ll get into the neighbors yard. So you’ve just gotta keep an eye on your hens to make sure they’re all roosting in their nest boxes.
You should collect the eggs every single day. Sometimes you’ll have more than one hen in a nest, so you’ll find 3 or 4 eggs at a time.
IN 2007 Mother Earth News compared an average 14 different eggs from free range farms against factory farms. The results were astonishing. True free range eggs averaged 3 times more Vitamin E, 2 times more Vitamin A, 7 times more beta carotene, 3 times more Omega-3, a third less cholesterol and a fourth less saturated fat.
So one of the advantages of free ranging your hens is that it’s less expensive than having to constantly buy food for them, because this way you can just let them out into the grass and most of the food that they consume is food that they forage themselves.
That being said, chickens also make wonderful garbage disposals. Feed them your table scraps and see what I mean.
Look at this picture. The egg on the right is a free range egg and the one on the left is a factory farmed egg. They look and taste very different!
Free-range hens are also usually healthier than their cousins kept in crowded cages in commercial poultry houses. The feeds given to commercial hens are the cheapest possible mixture of corn, soy, and/or cottonseed meals, with many types of additives mixed in. These additives often include growth hormones, meat and bone meals, as well as antibiotics and chemicals, like arsenic, to keep the chickens awake longer and producing more.
The commercial chicken has a much shorter lifespan due to stress, illness and general disease than does a free-range hen – unless, of course, the free-range hen falls prey to a natural predator.
The first thing you need a large enough piece of ground to keep them on. Don’t overload your ground with too many chickens. If you do put too many chickens in too small an area, you will end up with disease and respiratory problems, that chicks are very susceptible to.
You must have some kind of shelter for the chickens. A chicken shed with plenty of room for each hen. They do like the shade of trees if possible. And of course you’ll need fencing to keep them contained, and to stop them running EVERYWHERE.
You will need to feed them twice a day, and also collect the eggs at the same time, probably morning and afternoon. It’s a good idea to inspect them first thing in the morning to check the hens are healthy and coming out of their hut ok.
We recommend feeding the chickens pellets instead of mash, as it makes less waste.
Water is very important for chickens. They must have a fresh supply available and special consideration should be taken during the winter when their water can freeze and leave them with nothing to drink.