It's sad knowing that most eggs are unlucky. Almost all chicken eggs, the backbone of thousands of culinary creations, from soufflés to omelettes, come from hens that never stepped foot on a blade of grass, basked in a ray of sunshine, ate bugs, or foraged the way that mother nature wanted them to. Around 95 percent, or about 268 million laying hens, in America live this unlucky life within factory farming operations where they're crammed into tiny cages the size of letter paper, in conditions most of us would hate to even witness. And while most of the remaining "cage free," "free range," and/or "organic" hens do fare better, these labels don't necessarily guarantee the highest quality of life, either.
"Lucky" hens and their eggs live the way mother nature wants them to, on pastures! Their environments are free of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals, and they're never administered hormones or drugs.
Pasture hens are good news for healthy eating because these eggs tend to have less cholesterol, more micronutrients, and more omega-3s. They tend to have darker yolks, and taste better than their counterparts. This means your sunny side up will be richer, and your French toast yummier. These types of ethically-produced eggs also make us feel good, knowing the animals that created them were treated the right way, the humane way. And because it takes more people to farm this way these eggs actually create more jobs in their communities!
Now... Can you believe that these kinds of healthy, pasture hens account for a mere 0.05 percent of all laying hens in the U.S., according to the Vital Farms executive team and other industry estimates?
So what can we do to make sure there are more lucky hens and healthy eggs? First, we as consumers need to demand them. The more we ask, the more the market will shift to supply us with what we want and at prices we can afford! But there's also another factor at play. In order for farmers to switch their operations from conventional, factory farming, to farming on pastures, they have to make substantial investments - all costing a pretty penny. They've got to own more land, more fencing, buy different feed structures and the like. But a lot of farmers can't afford these upfront costs. A crowd-funding campaign that began a couple weeks ago by Vital Farms hopes to help many American farmers make the switch. They estimate it costs about $25 per hen to transition from factory farms (which house anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 hens) to pasture operations (which house about 6,000 hens).
I don't know about you, but for me, knowing that eggs made the way mother nature intended are healthier and tastier is more than enough to motivate me to seek out these eggs, ask my grocery store to consider stocking them, and even pay a bit more in the interim to be able to cook with them. It just makes so much sense. If we can successfully transition the egg industry from conventional to pasture, think of what we can do for other factory foods like poultry, beef, pork, and dairy? Please consider joining me in standing up for hens all across America. Let's eat eggs that elevate!
Pooja Mottl, a Natural and Sustainable Foods Chef, Instructor, Speaker, and Healthy Lifestyle Coach. She is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. You can find all her latest recipes and other healthy living tips and tools at Pooja's Way
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