Did you know that eggs from free-range chickens are up to twice as rich in vitamin E, two to six times richer in vitamin A (beta carotene), contain less saturated fat and are four times richer in omega-3 fatty acids? In addition, free range eggs may contain 1/3 less cholesterol as confinement-system eggs sold in the super market!
Not only are pastured eggs nutritionally superior to those sold commercially in the supermarket, the free-range egg is larger and better tasting. So when eating a free-range egg you will notice a richer yolk that is orange in color and not the yellow yolk that most are accustomed to eating.
Why do you think commercially produced eggs are inferior to a free-range egg?
First, let’s take a look at the life of a free-range chicken…
A true free-range chicken gets to forage naturally for food typical to their diet which includes insects, worms, various kinds of seeds and green plants. This natural diet my also be supplemented with grain or laying mash. In addition, free-range chickens are exposed to a natural source of lighting (the sun) and fresh air outside the coop.
You can raise pastured chickens easily right in your backyard. Even in urban areas, one can raise free-range chickens by simply utilizing a portable chicken coop with run. This will allow your birds room to roam more freely with the added benefit of foraging naturally for their food.
Now, let’s take a look at the life of a factory farm bird…
Factory farm birds are confined in battery cages — small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up in rows inside huge warehouses. According to the USDA, a factory hen should have four inches of “feeder space”, however it is common to pack four hens to a cage measuring only 16 inches wide. Being confined to such a tiny space, the birds cannot fulfill their normal behavior needs or social patterns. They suffer from feather loss and their bodies are covered with bruises and abrasions from constantly rubbing against wire cages. Caged birds never get to go outdoors, let alone forage naturally. Their main food source is usually a cheap feed mixture which contains all kinds of additives.
To prevent obsessive pecking caused by their poor living conditions, practically all laying hens have part of their beaks cut off. “Debeaking” is a painful procedure that involves cutting through bone, cartilage, and soft tissue. So factory birds never get to see the outdoors let alone forage naturally.
So what exactly does “free-range” mean?
True free-range eggs are those produced by hens that range outdoors on pastures. This means they can forage naturally – consuming green plants, bugs and insects. However, what may not be commonly known to the consumer is how the USDA defines “free-range” eggs.
Defined by the USDA, free-range eggs are those produced by chickens that are “allowed access to the outside”. What isn’t mentioned is that chickens have certain behaviors and social habits that will stop them from going out side. So if a door is too small or the shed overly populated, a chicken may never learn to go outside.
Given this information, it comes as no surprise that more and more people are choosing to raise their own free-range chickens.
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