You check your grocery list one more time and notice you still need to pick up eggs so you stroll your cart to the refrigerator section and you are unpleasantly greeted with a menagerie of cartons of eggs brightly labeled, “100% Natural!”, “Organic Brown Eggs,” “Organic Eggs fed on a Vegetarian Diet.” Whoa, since when were there so many different kinds of eggs?
If you are a conscientious citizen and are making all efforts (when you can) to not put money in the pockets of farmers raising their chickens (or any animals) inhumanely, your first instinct is to go to the ones that are labeled with the words, “organic.” Then you realize, the store brand also carries organic eggs so you might as well save the couple extra dollars and buy them since organic is organic, right?
Not so fast! A not-so-recent report (October 2010) from the Cornucopia Institute came out stating that about 80% of the eggs that were marketed organic are not going to be what you expected from an organic egg producer.
In fact, that 80% of eggs is about as close to conventional CAFO’s as you can get. The only thing separating them from being conventional? Well, they use organic feed and are not given any type of antibiotics. That’s it. The hens are still crammed in metal barns with very little sunshine (up to 85,000 can be held in one of these).
Thankfully, the Cornucopia Institute has a list of the worst offenders (like Horizon Organics, Eggland’s Best) as well as authentically organic eggs. Unfortunately, some of these quality eggs are sold by the same people who sell non-organic eggs (Kind of like how Kelloggs owns Kashi… *cough* GMO *cough* ) so that is another factor for consideration. One thing I did notice with the list is that all of the 5 star rated eggs are barely ever nationwide. About 99% of them are categorized in certain states. Another indicator that perhaps buying locally is better than buying nationally.
As far as private label/store brands? The founder of the Institute stated that most of the store brand eggs are also raised in confined, industrial operations. Whole Foods’ 365 Organic, Costco’s Kirkland Signature, Target’s Archer Farms, Safeway’s O Organic and Trader Joe’s brand are just some to name.
All of this brings me to my next point: Find a farmer you trust and buy eggs from them. Hens are supposed to be — like Joel Salatin would say — expressing their “chickeness” i.e., being outside, dust bathing and pecking at bugs. If you can not find a farmer, make sure you go for the most expensive eggs on the shelf. Those are typically the eggs that will be the best for you. If I can not buy eggs from Tara Firma Farms and have to get them from the store, I pay about 79 cents more than I do at the farm- $8.79 for a dozen eggs. Of course, you have to judge the price of eggs depending on the area you live. Since I live in California, everything is high priced. But say you live in somewhere like Florida you may be able to find pastured eggs for $4-$6/dozen.
Pastured is the key word. NOT Organic.
And trust me. There is a huge difference in quality of eggs when you buy the $8 ones vs. the $4. Let’s look at the difference in one of the many factors such as living conditions…..
That is the difference between the $8 and $4 eggs.
If you are going to a farm for your first time, check out this series of questions to ask a poultry farmer!
Until next time,
Loriel – Healthy Roots, Happy Soul