Being a chicken mom I have learned to appreciate
the egg more than those who have not had the pleasure of
the egg more than those who have not had the pleasure of
If you have ever taken the time to think about it, the egg is the womb for the growth of a baby chick. The chick develops inside the egg feeding only off the nutrients provided in the yolk. The yolk provides enough vitamins and nutrients for 21 days of growth inside the egg and 1-2 days outside once the chick is hatched.
Before I get into the nutrition and health benefits of eggs I want to explain the make up of an egg and some interesting egg facts...Eggs are truly amazing as are the birds which lay them.
The first misconception is that all eggs will be chicks. If you are eating unfertilized eggs from hens that have not been in contact with a rooster, the egg will never become a chick.
Even if the egg is fertilized, if the hen has not begun to incubate the eggs (sit on them) then the fertilized egg has not begun to grow a chick.
A hen does not need a rooster to lay an egg, hens will lay eggs during a cycle and depending on the breed a hen can lay one egg every 24-27 hours. They can not lay more than this as this is the time it requires for an egg to develop inside the hen.
The egg is formed inside a hen from the inside out.
The Yolk: A yolk is produced by the hen's ovary in a process called ovulation, the yolk is high inproteins, vitamin A, D, B vitamins, and heme iron, the form of iron most easily absorbed. The yolk is released into the oviduct (a long, spiraling tube in the hen's reproductive system), where it can be fertilized internally (inside the hen) by a sperm if the hen is in contact with a rooster. Red spots on the eggs are simply a broken vessel that may occur if the hen is stressed and do not mean it's a chick formation and is a normal a safe part of the egg. They can simply be picked out.
The Egg White (albumin): The yolk continues down the oviduct (whether or not it is fertilized) and is covered with a membrane (called the vitelline membrane), structural fibers, and layers of albumin (the egg white). This part of the oviduct is called the magnus.
The Chalazae: These are the white "slimes" inside the egg. As the egg goes down through the oviduct, it is continually rotating within the spiraling tube. This movement twists the structural fibers which form rope-like strands that anchor the yolk in the thick egg white to balance the yolk. There are two chalazae anchoring each yolk, on opposite ends of the egg.
The Eggshell: The eggshell is deposited around the egg in the lower part of the oviduct of the hen, just before it is laid. The shell is made of 95% calcium carbonate. The shells are porus to allow the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide gas to occur through the eggshell if a chick is growing inside.
Egg Shell color: The breed of chicken determines what color the eggs are, so it's a question of genetics. In a way, it's not so different from what determines the different colors that peoples' eyes or hair can be, even though they are all people.
Brown egg shells get their color from a substance called protoporphyrin that comes from the breakdown of hemoglobin in blood. This pigment is deposited on the surface of an otherwise white egg as the egg is formed and can be rubbed off with sandpaper or dissolved off with vinegar -- something you can easily verify at home. Blue and green colors come from a pigment called oocyanin that is produced in birds along with bile. There are actually chickens (Araucana chickens) that lay blue-green eggs. They are sometimes called ``Easter Egg" chickens since their eggs are precolored.
Are all eggs equal?
Happy healthy hens make healthy nutritous eggs. Commerical egg production is one of the most cruel of all edible animal products. In all honesty, Broiler chickens (meat birds) have a much better life than those poor battery hens who produce commercial store-bought eggs. With just 67 square inches of space in which to live (smaller than a sheet of computer paper), the poor little hen can't even flap her wings, let alone build a nest, perch, dust bathe to clean herself, or perform many other natural behaviors. She will be fed cheap corn and soy based (often GMO) medicated feed to keep disease from spreading in the awful conditions and will have lights on her so her body can produce the maximum amount of eggs. If she manages to survive the ordeal, once her production drops she will become soup or dog food.
Besides supporting the cruelty of factory farms when purchasing regular store bought eggs, studies have shown that these eggs are inferior in quality and nutrients. According to Richard Young, the Soil Association's policy adviser, "10 percent of eggs contain residues of drugs deemed too dangerous in human medicine." Factory farmed eggs have been found to contain up to 2mg of antibiotics per egg, this causes antibiotic resistance in humans.
Mother Earth News published an article in 2007 with studies showing that happy healthy free range (grass fed) birds produce eggs which are higher in nutrients for us. Pastured eggs had up to 20 times more omega-3s, 220 percent more vitamin E and 62 percent more vitamin A than eggs from caged hens. Pastured eggs also have 10 percent less fat and 34 percent less cholesterol than eggs obtained from factory farms.
Health benefits of eggs from happy hens:
Besides the obvious happy feeling you get knowing your are supporting healthy hens who have happy lives, their eggs can provide you with so many heath benefits.
The high lecithin and methionine content in eggs is an essential part of our diet and actually helps emulsify fat. The high lecithin content in pastured eggs aids in liver function, keeps the arterial lining free from cholesterol and prevents kidney and gallstones from forming.
The methionine content in eggs is also a powerful antioxidant, assists in gall-bladder function and detoxifies heavy metals and excess histamine levels from the body.
Although eggs have been condemned for cholesterol content (this is outdated information); current research shows that humans do not increase blood cholesterol levels by eating cholesterol. Rather, we increase cholesterol by eating refined processed flour, sugars and fats.
Based on these findings, we should eat eggs to help reduce cholesterol because of the protein, vitamin, amino acids, omega 3's and lecithin content and avoid the processed foods that are the real cause of high cholesterol.
There are 20 amino acids with eight of them considered essential in the diet because our bodies cannot make them. Eggs are one of the few foods containing all the essential amino acids. With these, our bodies can make whatever non-essential proteins they need.
One medium egg contains:
4 g fat
6 g of high quality protein
62 mg sodium
66.6 mg Omega-3 fatty acids
505 mg Omega-6 fatty acids
Vitamin A 314 IU 4%
Retinol 61.6 mcg
Beta Carotene 4.4 mcg
Beta Cryptoxanthin 4.0 mcg
Lutein+ Zeaxanthin 146 mcg
Vitamin D 30.4 IU 4%
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.4 mg
Gamma Tocopherol 0.2 mg
Vitamin K 0.1 mcg
Riboflavin 0.2 mg
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg
Folate 20.7 mcg
Vitamin B12 0.6 mcg
Pantothenic Acid 0.6 mg
Choline 110 mg
Betaine 0.3 m
Calcium 23.3 mg
Heme Iron 0.8 mg
Magnesium 5.3 mg
Phosphorus 84.0 mg
Potassium 59.0 mg
Zinc 0.5 mg
Selenium 13.9 mcg
That's like a multi-vitamin/mineral in a meal!!
Lets look at cost and marketing:
It saddens me that some people do not want to pay more for pastured eggs from happy hens. After reading how fantastic and healthy a pastured egg is, think about it...you get 12 eggs, yes 12 nutrient packed snacks or meals. Even if it cost you $6 for 12 eggs, what else can you buy for 50 cents?? A handful of candy? Not even a coffee. And you are supporting the welfare of animals while giving yourself one of the healthiest foods.
A Sad story:
Less than 3 per cent of the eggs sold in Canada are laid by happy pastured hens. A major reason is said to be cost: Consumers pay an average of $2.31 for a dozen regular eggs, compared with $4.16 for cage-free varieties. These include "free-range," where hens roam indoors and outdoors; "free-run," where hens roam only indoors; and "organic," a label that guarantees, among other things, that chickens aren't housed in battery cages and are fed and organic grain based non-medicated feed.
While cage-free egg sales have grown slightly in recent years, they're nowhere near the skyrocketing sales of other specialty brands, such as omega-3 enhanced eggs (Marketing, marketing marketing!), which claim health benefits for people, not chickens. So they got you with marketing! Omega-3 eggs are still from those chickens caged up and fed medicated feed, with some ground flax meal...Lets not forget the omega 3 content is much higher in happy pastured hens.
So which eggs should you buy?
Try to find a local farmer with happy hens that graze on pasture, often the eggs will be cheaper and the money goes directly to the farmer. This way you can actually see the hens and the conditions in which they live.
If this is not possible, then look for free-range antibiotic free eggs in the grocery store.
Next best is Organic free run eggs. These hens don't necessary go outside but are free to roam inside a barn and are fed organic feed.
So don't have egg on your face by purchasing regular store bought eggs and supporting cruelty; have egg in your belly and support happy healthy hens for a happier healthier you! :)