by Nick Rose, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator
This article was originally published in June 2013
First, let’s clarify that pastured eggs have zero in common with pasteurized eggs, which usually are sold in liquid form and have been heated (pasteurized) to kill any salmonella. Pastured eggs come from chickens raised outdoors, on the pasture (a.k.a., grass). When hens roam outdoors they feed on whatever insects, grubs, grass or plant matter they desire. This dietary diversity boosts the nutritional profile of their eggs over those from hens fed only grain. Farmers are allowed to provide some supplemental feed (grains) to pastured hens, but the majority of their diet comes from what they find in the field.
The improved diets of pastured hens also generate higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (about 3 times higher), vitamin E (about 4 times higher), and beta-carotene (about 8 times higher) when compared to conventional eggs laid by confined hens. Pastured eggs also contain about a third less cholesterol than conventional eggs, according to an egg analysis published in Mother Earth News.
Pastured eggs also offer impressive vitamin D content. Just like us, hens who spend more time outdoors make more of this “sunshine vitamin” when their skin absorbs sunlight. According to a vitamin D study published in Mother Earth News, pasture-raised eggs contain about 6 times as much vitamin D as conventional eggs.
PCC is proud to offer pastured eggs in all 9 of our locations. We also offer organic, omega-3 enriched eggs laid by hens fed organic grain with added flaxseed. Each egg provides 25 percent of our daily requirement for omega-3 fatty acids, making these eggs a convenient way to add more of these essential fatty acids to our diets. Be sure to enjoy the whole egg, however, because these good fats are found only in the yolk.
Isn’t the cholesterol in egg yolks bad for me?
Not eggs-actly. Believe it or not, dietary cholesterol is NOT the primary influence on our blood cholesterol levels. Our blood cholesterol goes up more when we eat foods rich in saturated and trans fats, especially when we skip foods like olive oil, nuts and other rich sources of healthier monounsaturated fats. Many shoppers still associate eggs with poor heart health. But newer research finds that regular egg-eaters (2 eggs per day) have normal cholesterol levels. So, I always advocate eating the whole egg to get the whole nutritional package. Yolks contain an egg’s vitamin A, D, E, choline, and omega 3s, as well as the cholesterol. Egg whites contain protein but no additional nutrients. So definitely eat the whole egg to get the whole nutritional package.
When compared to eggs from confined hens, eggs from pastured hens typically offer:
- 6 times as much vitamin D
- 4 times more vitamin E
- 8 times more beta-carotene
- 3 times more omega-3 fatty acids