Egg Purchasing Guide

Ah, eggs. We Primals appreciate your delicious creamy yolky goodness and fluffy decadent ivory insides, like so many edible clouds upon whose buoyancy our breakfast relies. You’re good for us and come naturally pre-packaged. What’s not to love?

The myriad terms used to describe them, for one.

Cage free. Organic. All natural. Free range. You see these terms on egg cartons all the time, some even using all four at once! But what do they mean? Does “free range” mean access to a chicken’s natural, Primal diet? Let’s examine each nebulous term for what it’s worth.

Free Range

As applied to chicken eggs, this term is essentially meaningless. Government only loosely regulates the definition of “free range,” and egg producers have jumped at the opportunity to print some new labels and charge a couple extra bucks in return for giving their hens occasional access to a tiny patch of dirt. According to the Department of Agriculture (PDF), egg “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the Outside” In other words, there needs to be a door to the chicken cage, and it needs to be open part of the time, but the chickens can still eat substandard food and live in cramped conditions. A “range” can range from being a full-fledged pasture (not likely) to a 10 x 10 patch of manure and dirt (more likely). Chances are, most free range chickens rarely even venture outside. Why would they? Their food is usually inside.

Cage Free

Even more meaningless than “free range,” this term has no legal definition. Technically, cage free hens don’t live in stifling metal cages; instead, they might still live in stifling, overcrowded henhouses! Some cage free hens’ lives aren’t much qualitatively better than those who live in cages and most still aren’t getting any access to the outdoors, but they’re generally raised with better food and better treatment.


Organic is more useful and easy to pin down. Organic egg producing hens are given organic feed, no antibiotics (unless in the case of an outbreak), and limited access to the outdoors (just a door to their cage or barn, really). These are better than your average mass-produced egg, but your best bet is still to find a truly pasture-raised egg.

All Natural

Um, “all natural”? As opposed to artificial? This is the most useless, all-encompassing term for anything. All produce is natural. These eggs weren’t created in a lab by a team of white coats. Even the most steroid-pumped, antibiotic-immersed hens produce “natural” eggs the way nature intended: by laying them. “All natural” is just a subtly disingenuous term used to conjure up images of hens happily pecking away at seeds and bounding through pastures, only to return home for the nightly egg-laying. It’s a feel-good phrase that distracts consumers from the fact that most eggs are produced in appalling, wholly unnatural conditions. Feel free to eat all natural eggs, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re of any particular improvement in quality.

Omega-3 Fortified

Omega-3 fortified eggs come from hens fed flax, linseed, or a direct supplement. The healthy fats do trickle down to the consumer, but in varying degrees. Seeds (especially flax) aren’t the greatest source of omega-3 fats anyway, so we would advise you not to rely on the fortified eggs for your healthy fat source. Buy these if you like – omega-3 fortified eggs also tend to come from organic, cage-free birds, so they’re generally better – but stick with the fish oil, too.

The Bottom Line

As Primal Blueprinters are fastidious about what we eat, we should also pay attention to what our food eats. Chickens raised in stressful environments – eating corn, soy, and antibiotics (a decidedly unPrimal diet for a chicken), and relegated to a tiny cage that would result in atrophy were it not for the steroids – do not produce high quality eggs. Your best bet is to research the egg producers. Free range and cage free are good starts, but it’s not the end of it. Find out if their birds are actually free range, and not just given access to a patch of dirt. If the hens are out their pecking away in a pasture, digging for grubs and worms and eating wild grasses, they’re going to produce eggs that are much more inline with how nature intends it.

A study (PDF) of fourteen free range chicken farms conducted by Mother Earth News (I know, I know, how hippy-dippy can you get?) confirms that true pasture/range free chickens, given a natural diet of grains, insects, grasses, and seeds, produce eggs loaded with nutrients. Pasture raised eggs have more beta-carotene, vitamins E and A, and omega-3 levels, with less cholesterol and saturated fat than mass-market eggs.

The choice is pretty clear. If you can afford it, look for local varieties of pasture raised eggs. Try the farmer’s market or gourmet grocery stores. If not, at least stick with organic, cage free, free range eggs. Their chickens may not have been out frolicking, but at least they weren’t stuffed into cages and force-fed drugs. Your wallet may hurt in the short term, but – as we Primal Blueprinters know better than anyone else – your long-term health is worth the extra expense.

ANDI2.. Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Primal Breakfast Suggestions for People on the Go

Eggs, Breakfast and Weight Loss

How to Make a Delicious Spanish Omelet

Mother Earth News: Meet Real Free Range Eggs

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59 thoughts on “Egg Purchasing Guide”

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  1. There is a definite difference even in taste. We have always loved eggs at our house but when we went primal, we switched form the local gorcery store’s run of the mill grade AA eggs to a local ranches ungraded organic ranch raised eggs. They taste SO much better than the grocery eggs.. its almost like you can taste the lack of hormones. That and you can drive right out to the ranch and check em out!

  2. Eggs, one of nature’s perfect foods! Low cost (even premium eggs are a protein value), suitable for every meal, and delicious from sweet and savory, from plain to fancy. Our family of three goes through as many as 4 doz a week!

    Yes, I cringe inside every time I see “all vegetarian feed” on an egg carton. Sure, it’s great to know rendered downer mad cows aren’t in the chicken feed, but chickens are naturally omnivores, NOT vegetarians. Given the chance, chickens love grubby meals, as well as worms, grasshoppers, even lizards, snakes, and small rodents.

    For truly local, fresh, omnivorous eggs, consider a few pet backyard chickens. It’s a growing trend, even in urban and suburban areas (many areas do allow pet chickens; check with local municipal codes). Small coops and chicken runs like the Eglu and other convenient designs can be moved around, naturally fertilizing the ground below (creating lushgreen lawns) so that manure doesn’t concentrate and annoy neighbors (I hear of neighbors who come looking for some chicken gold, I mean manure, for their on gardens). Chickens can eat up your weeds and garden pests, too (that means no spraying, of course!). Of course, you’ll want to keep them out of your fancy garden beds or veggie beds, or they’ll find all the grubs and nice leaves there, too, but perhaps consuming and digging more than desired.

    Lots of homeowners have chicken blogs now. There are great fun to read.

    1. One slight thing about that comment, it’s all great apart from you have to have a very LONG term view of chickens creating lush green lawns! They will trash it in the meantime, and they don’t have a specific taste for weeds – they eat whatever they fancy! This means that they shred the lawn (bad) pick out all the moss (good) claw up the soil (good) and fertilise it (also good) – so some time AFTER they’ve been moved away, you might get the lush green lawn, but not for a while! I knew a family that kept chickens, and they actually used them for turning over the veg gardens once everything had been harvested – they took out all the weeds, all the pests, and turned the soil over beautifully for replanting! Also, how good chicken manure is for your garden can depend on the soil pH you already have, making all the eggshells leaves it very acidic. Of course, if you then compost your eggshells and put them back into the soil, it can help balance it out. Gardening with chickens. It’s the way forward. Or backward?

  3. Anna, Thats great! I actually looked into raising some of my own chickens but I did not really design my yard properly for it and I don’t know if I am quite up to that challenge yet. I grew up in rural ranch country and the people with chickens would always sell us their eggs (and goats milk!) but not since I moved to the city.

  4. I don’t know that I can agree that premium eggs are a “value”. In my neck of the woods (San Francisco) the three places that sell true pasture raised eggs start at $7 a dozen. Not a deal. However, these eggs are still freaking delicious and honestly I have at least one carton if not two a week. Totally worth it in my opinion, but not a deal.

  5. The all natural part of this equation is very funny, because how in the world do you have artificial eggs. At least this site knows how to keep a good sense of humor and be incredibly informative. Thanks MDA!!!

  6. The nice thing about n-3 eggs is the n-3 actually displaces the n-6. Flax-fed eggs are lower in n-6 than conventional eggs, with a similar amount of total polyunsaturated fat. The chickens do a pretty good job of converting the ALA into DHA too.

  7. Nick,

    You’re right that $7/doz pasture eggs aren’t cheap (perhaps you need some of your own urban chickens – check out the Portland, OR urban coop tours for some fun inspiration). But one dozen eggs is at least 4 servings of excellent and versatile protein at $1.75 per serving, which I think still compares favorably to protein from pastured meats and poultry, cost-wise. So a breakfast of 3 pastured eggs gently cooked in grass-fed butter, taking no more than 5 minutes, is still a great bargain compared to any “breakfast sandwich” at the local fast-food drive through joint.

    And I’m sure you’ll agree (you seem to, as you still indulge in your expensive eggs) good food, produced well, shouldn’t be cheap. Cheap, substandard food is partly to blame for the health mess we are in. Better to pay more for quality where it counts than to pay less for lower-quality foods that compromise health and well-being.

    And keep in mind, that before chicken eggs became “cheap-cheap” from “battery” egg ranches, intense industrial confinement production, and cheap commodity grain/manufactured feeds, eggs were long considered a “luxury” food item and bird eggs have been highly prized worldwide for food since prehistory. My MIL (age 80) still thinks of her 1920s-era classic Chiffon Cake recipe as “decadent” because it uses 8 eggs, never mind that industrial eggs can be purchased for as little as 99 cents at most supermarkets during certain times of the year.

  8. So what is the best way to go about researching the egg producers? I imagine that simply calling customer service would not get one very far, though I may be wrong about this. I wonder if there are official documents, outlining the production process, and available to the public. Yes, that would be nice. Has anyone had experience with this?

  9. Maria,

    I’ve simply emailed/called egg producers whose branded products are in my local markets (store brand egg producers are harder to track down and probably change frequently) and I asked particulars about their egg operation (as neutrally as I can phrase it as I am seeking information, not making accusations).

    Most of the time I quickly receive a simple, honest and direct answer, and usually it is that while their operation is much better in many ways than the conventional battery egg system, it is still perhaps not what I am looking for and perhaps not what most people picture when they think of “free range” – it’s usually still a very large operation with less outdoor time, and less access to growing grasses/plants, bugs, etc. than laying chickens during “Auntie Em’s farm”. Michael Pollan aptly writes about this evocative “pastoral literature” on labeling and in store decor in his Omnivore’s Dilemma book.

    It’s hard to imagine that any egg producer can really pasture huge numbers of laying hens and also have a retail market presence in widespread multiple grocery store chains, across state lines, even across country lines (yes, there are “free range” eggs flown in from NZ). Direct to consumer and in farmer’s market or small independent stores is more in line wiht small scale egg producers. Not saying it can’t be done somehow, but my impression is that eggs in the conventional stores are still produced along very intensive industrial models, free-range, cage-free, all vegetarian feed, organic labeling notwithstanding. And even a busy local egg vendor (charging fairly high prices) at one of my local farmer’s markets proudly told me that she has 50,000 indoor layers at her ranch! She makes a higher profit per dozen selling directly so I’m sure it is good or her, but were her eggs so dfferent from “store” eggs?. Sure, she has 300 hens that get some “free range” time (and those eggs cost more) but it turns out they “free-range” in an outdoor dirt ground enclosure with grain feeders, with little or no access to greens and probably minimal bugs, too. No wonder her “free-range” eggs were “boring” to eat day in and day out in comparison to some other truly flavorful, truly pastured eggs I have had from other small producers.

    I am encouraged when the egg yolks vary in color in a carton, because that tells me that chickens don’t all eat exactly the same thing every day. Some yolks will be lighter, some will be dark orange, some in between, because each laying hen can choose what to eat in a rich feeding environment. I’ve never seen that color variety in any store-bought eggs no matter what was on the label or the cost, only in “backyard” and pasture-farmed eggs.

  10. Farm raised fresh eggs are the best! Grocery store eggs are so bland. There is a big difference in taste. Unfortunately I don’t know where to get them anymore. My boyfriend’s parents moved and got rid of their chickens, so I no longer have an endless supply. I wonder if my neighbors will notice a coop in my backyard… so what if you can’t have chickens in the city, they’re so delicious it should be legal!!

  11. I always hate when I see “all vegetarian diet!”
    What chickens are vegetarians?? As far as I know, bugs aren’t plants. My friend feeds her chickens table scraps to supplement their feed. They LOVE chicken bones! They crack them open and eat the marrow.

    1. Feeding grubs and meat scraps fine, but for some reason chicken cannibalism makes me uncomfortable. Are there any problems with that? I know that if you feed eggshells for the grit they can get a taste for them and wind up eating their own.

  12. My local “natural” food store stocks a couple varieties of Chino Valley Ranch brand eggs. So I checked their website, then sent an email with a few questions. I had a response in 22 minutes – that’s pretty impressive! I’ll leave the rest of the evaluating to MDA readers.


    Are any of your eggs from pastured hens? By that I mean do the hens spend a
    considerable amount of time outdoors (most, if not all of the day), with
    access to sunshine, fresh growing grasses/plants, live bugs, grubs, etc? If
    so, approx how much of the hens’ food would be from the pasture and how much
    from “chicken feed”?

    I’m not asking to stir anything up, but I just can’t determine from
    ambiguous labeling terms how “store” eggs are really produced. My family of
    three goes through as many as four dozen eggs a week, so it makes a
    difference in our egg choices.


    Response from CVR:

    All of our houses have interaction with the outside. Any of our cage free
    product comes from hens raised in houses without solid walls, they are wire
    and many bugs and plenty of fresh air gets in. Anything that is organic has
    access to the outside.

    Hope this helps!

    Hmmm, still couldn’t get a good picture in my mind. So I google mapped the address listed on the website, but the satellite photos seemed to be a trucking hub, not the actual farm/ranch (as an aside – isn’t the internet wonderful/scary?!!!).

    So I went back to the CVR website looking for photos of the farms & “free-range” and “wire-walled house” conditions. Found a Real Player video on this page, but you’d have to download it to view it. It was a bit choppy and low resolution on my mac, but still viewable.

    Again, I’ll leave the analysis and interpretation of CVR’s method of egg production to the MDA readers.

  13. One of the things keepers of backyard flocks learn is that hens will eat their own chicken eggs, too. One has to prevent hens from “developing a taste for eggs”, with regular and early egg gathering. That’s a cannibalistic hoot! Many pet chicken keepers pulverize egg shells to feed them back to the hens, for the valuable mineral content.

  14. My local backyard egg supplier lost most of her flock this summer to heat and predators, plus the remaining birds are going through their seasonal molting so egg production has ground to a halt. So I haven’t had any eggs from her in while and I miss them.

    But I have to admit, I’ve had a “eat seasonal” dilemma battling in my mind – wait for her new hens to be back in egg production and go without eggs for awhile or succumb to the seduction of the egg case at the store? So far, seduction is winning out, but with half our usual consumption. When one gets in tune with seasonal egg production, one starts to wonder what the industrial producers have to to do manipulate the seasons to keep production on-going. Hmmm…. no sign of that info at CVR’s website/video and I forgot to ask about it.

  15. Anna, you bring up a great point bout 3-4 servings for $7 still being a pretty good deal. $7 is a latte and a muffin at Starbucks. And no matter what kind of eggs you buy, enriched, caged, hormone injected or otherwise, it’s still healthier than a caramel latte and a muffin.

  16. Hey Anna, thanks for all your comments. They are very informative and thought-inspiring.

    I also have a general comment. There has been no mention here of Omega-3 enriched eggs from chickens who are fed marine algae as part of their diet. These Omega-3 eggs boast 300mg of DHA omega-3 per serving (2 eggs). At $5 a dozen, it seems like a pretty nice deal. And these eggs are available in grocery stores like whole foods too.

    Finally, my take home from this discussion is to look out for eggs from local producers when I visit the farmer’s market this Sunday. I am looking forward to finding something delicious!


  17. A good rule of thumb as to whether a chicken has access to real pasture or not is to look at the chicken legs from the same farm. If they’re tiny, they don’t. If the legs are massive and wide, they’re getting a lot of running in.

  18. Wow. Thanks for the informative post. I never realised how open and misleading the term ‘free range’ eggs could be. I thought free range eggs were more expensive because the chickens had a lot more freedom. Thanks for clearing up the confusion.

  19. I’ve grown very fond of Eggland’s Best. I don’t have access (That I know of) to farm fresh eggs that I would trust. I tried them awhile back and have stuck to them ever since. They are a little more expensive but they taste better to me. I just go for the regular Eggland’s Best and don’t go for the organic, or free run.

  20. *Update* After further research by me because of this topic, I have discovered that the local brand of eggs that we get…. is even better! You can actually set up an appointment to go to the ranch and handpick your own eggs at no additional charge! Does it get any cooler than that?

  21. Our neighbors have chickens and we get eggs from them. The chickens are allowed out into the grassy yard (fenced off portion) for most of the day during good weather and put in the coop at night. They do feed them corn (homegrown in the field behind our house, no chemicals used) when they are in the coop. Is this “bad”? The eggs have yolks so dark they border on orange and my kids thought they were weird. I explained that this was “normal” and what should be “weird” is the pale yellow yolks that folks think is “normal”! Needless to say, my suburbs-raised (till we moved into the countryside in Italy) brood found this quite shocking, but they think it is so cool to be able to see a chicken actually lay an egg, and when we crack one open with a double yolk you’d think we won the lottery lol! Our neighbors also give us whole chikens when they are, um, finished with their egg laying duties. I assume the meat is better than factory raised but wonder about the corn they are fed and if it is as negative as it is to grain finish cattle. The meat tends to be tougher than store-bought chicken, probably because they are not real young birds. Also, how does rabbit meat fair on the health scale (fed rabbit pellets~~alfalfa I assume~~and corn)?

  22. I’m lucky enough to have a co-worker who raises chickens, so I get flippin’ gigantic eggs all the time for $3/dozen. He was out last week, so I grabbed some at the grocery store … generic brand = $3.29/dozen!

    His chickens roam the land in a portable fencing, and head into a coop at night so they don’t beat up one patch of land. They eat organic chicken feed, along with whatever they run into in their daily waddling. The eggs are awesome, of course, and I enjoyed some scrambled with elk sausage (raised by another friend of mine) this morning.

  23. Wow, I’d no idea people were paying 7 bucks for one-celled clucks! lol

    We live in the low lying part of the Sierra Nevada mountains (2500 ft) and we’ve got a lady down the road from us that raises chickens & sells their eggs for $2 a dozen. And boy are they yummy! But ya gotta get there first thing in the morning – by 10am she is always sold out.

  24. Another up-side to having your own chickens is that you appreciate grasshopper infestations rather than bemoaning them….one less stress! I never complained about those protein rich little buggers hopping around my yard! My birds feasted like never before and produced the darkest orange yolked eggs I’ve ever seen…certainly must have been FULL of great nutrition. I was surprised, though, at how many of my co-workers couldn’t believe I would actually eat such “odd” colored boiled eggs. (They should know by now that I eat a lot of “odd” things!)

    I am so thankful that I can have my own hens and eggs.

  25. Great info on eggs, both in the post and the comments! I had always suspected that the labels on the store eggs were BS, the terms of the food industry are so loose that nearly anything can have a “healthy-in-some-way” label slapped on it. If HFCS can be labeled “organic” then I don’t feel like I can trust most of the other stuff on the shelves either.

    Organic produce might be a little better, but I don’t know. I do know that most of the produce labeled organic at our grocery store looks kinda pitiful, especially compared to the produce that we grew in my parents’ garden growing up. I figure if we managed to grow fruits & veggies that looked bright & firm & healthy, food that looks dull & withered isn’t worth the high price tag. I’m sure it’s been through a lot on it’s journey to the store, but that makes it even less appealing to me.

    As Apurva said, the real message here is pretty much “Try to find someone local”. For once I’m glad I’m rural enough to find that, even if we don’t have anything approaching a Whole Foods.

    Has anyone experimented with ostrich eggs? The woman I get chicken eggs from has ostrich eggs I’ve been too intimidated to try so far. I’m sure they’re great, but you need a hammer to crack those puppies open & they contain the equivalent of 2 dozen chicken eggs, maybe more. Since it’s just me & my husband, I figure we’d end up with a LOT of quiche. =)

    I got three duck eggs from her the last time I was at the farmers market, but that was several weeks ago and I don’t actually know how long they last… I’ve been out of town a ton & just haven’t managed to find a time to make them. Aforementioned husband won’t eat them, says he never liked them, and I’m not sure if I should try to scramble them or what. I’m still fairly new to cooking, sorry if I sound totally dumb saying that.

  26. Try drilling the ostrich eggs, then you’ll have a nice intact shell. Google for more ideas.

    The duck eggs might be just fine as long as there were no microcracks in the shell. Eggs really do last quite a while, though I don’t have specific experience with duck eggs.

    I don’t even refrigerate my eggs anymore, I generally go through them so fast. But over last Christmas I had 12 doz delivered before the holidays to last a few weeks and they were fine stored in my garage – cooler than the house, but warmer than the fridge. By the time I got a new egg delivery in late January, I still had some eggs left. I’ve had a few go off after 4-6 weeks unchilled (remember, too, these come to me much fresher than grocery store eggs), but all the ones that went off had microcracks in the shells. Now I inspect all the cartons for microcracks (candling) right away and use any I cracked eggs I find first in something cooked. The remaining eggs last a long time without chilling with less change of spoilage.

    And the “off” ones were unmistakable – the yolk membrane broke as soon as it fell out of the cracked shell (or it was already broken inside the egg), it and the shell inside smelled distinctly sulfurous when I sniffed, and the shell was a yellow color inside with a mold spot inside a the microcracks location. The only problem was with these older eggs, I spoiled the good eggs when I cracked them all into the same container (of course the bad one was the last one I cracked open). So as I used these 5-6 week old eggs that hadn’t been kept super cold, I cracked each into a small bowl before adding to the others. I think I had 3 or 4 bad ones by the time I used up all the 6 wk old eggs, and each was very recognizable as spoiled, so there was no danger of eating them.

  27. Wow, thank you for that, Anna. I never would have known about microcracks, I always just assumed I’d only be able to tell if one was bad by cracking it open or doing the sink or float test. Btw, will that work with duck eggs, too? I would assume so, but again, still learning. I only got interested in cooking once I changed my diet because this way seemed obvious & simple, not complicated with too much processing & recipes that have 25 ingredients. Funny how the simplest things elude us sometimes.

    1. Duck eggs actually last much longer than chicken eggs. The float test works.
      You can cook duck eggs just like chicken eggs, but realize that they are better a little more gently cooked (lower temp).
      I LOVE them for baking, as the higher protein content makes them better for leavening! If you are a gluten free baker, like me, this makes a moire satisfying product.
      Also they make the most delicious hard cooked/deviled eggs!

  28. Ahhhh…so many choices but I guess only one real option. Thanks for sharing all this eggcellent information about the incredible, edible, egg!! Great tips from the readers as well.

  29. Has anyone here tried guinea fowl eggs? I was told by a Yugoslavian friend that they are very sweet. We got rid of our guinea fowl once we realized that they NEVER shut up!

  30. Nope. But I did try quail eggs this summer. I found them in the grocery store when we were in Tuscany and had to try them (yes, I love eggs!). They were great boiled for picnics, easy-to-carry snacks while sightseeing (purse-sized!), and salad garnishes. Pretty mottled cream and brown shells, about half the size of chicken eggs. Very nice.

    Another thing I have noticed while outside the US – we refrigerate too many foods. I’m learning to store more things out of the fridge and consuming them before they spoils, plus more foods are safe without refrigeration that I ever imagined. My German friends and Norwegian SIL don’t even refrigerate opened jars of mayo – they keep it in the cabinet (though they are much smaller, “condiment” sized jars” that don’t last forever, not institutional or warehouse club-sized). They take care not to contaminate it with used utensils, which is prudent anyway.

  31. Anna, I actually ordered quail eggs today at a hibachi/sushi place thinking, “What the hell, time to try a new type of egg!” A few minutes later the owner came out and said, “Oh, I have bad news, no sushi today… Just kidding, but really, we don’t have quail eggs. Would you like salmon eggs instead?” I tried the salmon eggs, and they were ok, but I was sad to miss out on the quail eggs.

    I agree with you about refrigerating things that maybe don’t need it. For years I put tomatoes in the fridge with the other veggies, just didn’t know any better. I always thought my mom left them on the counter to ripen, I didn’t know the cold would ruin the tomatoes. But I did think it was weird when people would refrigerate peanut butter. My mom used to throw a fit when my stepfather would put the peanut butter in the fridge. “Did you *find* it in the fridge? Then why would you put it back there?!” =)

  32. There is definitely a difference. When we started raising our own chooks (in suburban Perth, Western Australia), we were surprised at the rich orange colour of the yokes as compared to the pale yellow yokes of the store-bought eggs. Once you have had fresh eggs, it’s pretty hard to go back.

  33. Adding to, many months later.

    Almost forty years ago my ex and I were buying eggs from the local health food store. The yolks were dark and when we served them to guests w/o them knowing, they raved about the flavor.

    Just like Anna points out, I too cringe at “all vegetarian diet” eggs. Those eggs four decades ago came from truly free range chicks, and let me tell you, there is no shortage of bugs here in Florida! When I find eggs that the layers have that kind of diet, I’ll buy them. Until then, I’m not impressed.

    I think it was in The Omnivore’s Dilemma it was pointed out that most free range chickens mostly stick to the barn. Safety or food, maybe. Kind of like modern kids and their video games?

  34. I’ve noticed over the years, but particularly after I moved to the West Coast that grocery store eggs and become almost watery. It was getting harder and harder to make a good omelet.

    Maybe when we buy eggs that are “cage-free” they are not the best but you can still see the difference.
    I nice well-defined yolk and white that isn’t falling apart. I think that really reveal a lot about the nutrition of the said hen that laid such an egg.
    I also like to experiment with raw vs. cooked. I always feel better when I eat the whole eggs raw (in a shake of course). And I’m not very concerned about Biotin deficiency since the yolk has plenty.

  35. I have just switched to organic free range eggs, and while the pain in the pocket is a little more than I had hoped (organic stuff is very expensive here in Hong Kong) the taste difference is well worth the extra dollars… and from everything I read about the health benefits are significant too. Thanks for your guidance Mark

  36. One thing I’ve noticed since switching to local eggs from the farmer’s market instead of store-bought (including organic) eggs–the shells are thicker! The eggs I used to eat would crack very easily and would often splinter into my mixing bowl, necessitating a little shell-fishing expedition if I didn’t want crunchy shell bits in my omelet. The local organic eggs I get from farmers in town crack only with a good sharp rap on the bowl and break into two clean halves when I pull them open, which I can only presume is due to healthier hens laying stronger, thicker eggs!

  37. Eggs that I get at my local farmer’s market is fresher than the ones I can get at the commercial grocery store. I highly recommend getting local organic eggs. I believe they are more nutritious as well.

  38. Hello,
    I am new to this website and haven’t finished reading the Primal books yet, but any thoughts on the cartons of fake egg/liquid egg whites?

  39. We never knew how enjoyable having chickens could be until we bit the bullet and got some. Each passing year we learn more about our delightful chickens. They roam freely, and are fed organic feed. The summer yolks are actually orange! We have yet to buy eggs that are better – even from farmers’ markets.

  40. Europe has a great solution to this egg issue, its the exploding market called BIO or biological according to the best life (possible) for the animal and its organic, non-genetic altering for produce, milk, cheese, etc, as well.
    If a food has the special bio marking, like a chicken egg, it means not only was the bird raised according to ITS needs it was fed also according to the bio criteria. In Germany for example you can buy eggs caged (Kaefighaltung), barn/ground (Bodenhaltung), Outdoor (Freilandhaltung) and Bio. Each step of the way the bird and egg gets a bit better, but only with bio can you be sure that the chicken had a decent life. It’s very hard for a farmer to maintain the bio rating because his whole operation must be bio,, but the advantage for the farmer is a slightly higher price for the egg and I guess the knowledge that he is making real food. The good news of this system is you don’t have to wonder around half the world looking for barefoot hippies selling organic out of VW buses to get your quality food, you just go to any store and look for the bio marked foods. Buy the way, you can also get omega-3 eggs, but they are no longer classified as bio (at least the ones I saw so far, not sure about the food regulation on that) so what chicken was it? The one on the cage? Probably.

  41. One of the few reasons worth living in kansas.. access to cheap, farm fresh, food :D. I can get a dozen of pastured chicken eggs for $3.50 from my preferred farmer. They taste soooo much better than the store bought stuff. Thanks for the article, passing this one onto my family members who struggle to figure out the deceptive carton labels.

  42. Interesting post! I don’t think anyone has commented on this yet, apologies if this came up already. But from what I’ve read, many of the non-pastured hens might actually be eating diets that have the macronutrients most resembling their natural diets (albeit, animal parts vs. worms). So, if you can’t find/afford pastured, given the choice between “cage free, all vegetarian” and simply “cage free”, I’d go cage free. Does that sound right to folks? See here:

  43. P.S. the author of the post i linked to above has a bias toward all-vegetarian fed chickens and has an “ick” factor for animal parts being fed to chickens. i guess that’s what I’m questioning.

  44. mother earth new’s isn’t just for hippies, its for people who want to be self sufficient and prefer to live with their heads in the air as opposed to firmly planted in the sand. Just my 2 cents

  45. For people in the UK, the best supermarket eggs I’m aware of are Sainsbury’s Free Range Woodland eggs – at least 20% of the birds’ range area planted with a mix of native tree cover to encourage the birds out to forage in the first place.

    I’d be interested to hear about any other UK supermarket options that may be as good/better. Thanks!

  46. If you can only get normal, mass produced eggs, is it still better to eat them than to not eat eggs at all? In India it is not possible (or at least not possible in normal cities) to find fancy organic, free range, etc. eggs. Eggs are widely available and cheap, but the way they have been produced is suspect. I sometimes worry that this makes the eggs not only lower in quality, but in fact potentially unhealthy? Is this true? I am a vegetarian (yes to dairy, no to eggs) trying to transition to eating eggs and then on to meat. I want to go for a month with an egg rich diet before adding meat, as I feel even eggs themselves will be a big step. Is it ok to go with mass produced eggs?

  47. great post, very informative. I live in a rural area and have a local farm i get eggs from. THey are a staple in my diet so i am very picky, and wondering if i could get some thoughts on the quality of their diet/health?

    There are 99 hens (100 is the limit here) and they have access to a decent size of pasture anytime the sun is up. (decent size meaning 70 feet by 70 feet or so)
    At night they are locked up for safety.
    THey are fed ground oyster shells, organic feed (contains corn and other grains) as well as some flaxseed.

    Ive personally seen the hens running around and i know the feed brand name so i know he is 100% telling the truth. At $3.50/dozen im hoping that the feeding them corn isnt ruining all the other great aspects of it.

    Thanks for any thought.

  48. hi,

    i love your blog and all it’s wisdom. i’m upset by your brushing off free range and cage free eggs. in an ideal world, we’d all have our own chickens, or know farmers to get eggs from. considering that the average urban dweller doesn’t, isn’t “free range” or “cage free” the next best thing for someone shopping at Ralphs?
    completely agree that the industry takes advantage of these labels. they also do with the label “organic.” what matters is that the hens in the free range/cage free farms get better treatment. they’re still a much better alternative to the average farm.

  49. Hi I’m in south africa, our eggs are okay haven’t seen a dark orange I didn’t really take notice of wat eggs my parents buy, thanks for the info, I have one question, I love to crack two raw eggs into a glass cup adding a teaspoon of sugar and mixing it up with a little milk .. Is this healthy? I usually have 3 cups a day of this stuff

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