Backyard chicken raising has become quite popular over the last few years, and I don’t think there is any one reason, but rather a few good reasons why. The reasons we did it are twofold; fresh healthy eggs and for the fun of it!
First of all, eggs are not bad for you. They are very good for you because they are packed with lots of nutritional stuff. A few decades back, a war on eggs was waged because they were perceived as having too much cholesterol. Since then, study after study has shown there is no direct correlation to ingested cholesterol presenting in the blood stream, unless you are doing something crazy like eating 6 eggs a day, every day.
Most people don’t know this, but your body actually produces upwards of 2 grams of cholesterol a day on its own for cellular growth. However, when you eat food containing cholesterol, the body simply produces less of it by regulating itself (source: Huffington Post – Ph.D. trained nutritional biochemist and a full-time nutrition coach). Of course there are some folks who have cholesterol issues, but it’s not because they are eating eggs. It’s because their body is not able to regulate cholesterol production properly.
Those who only eat egg whites and skip the yolk thinking that’s better for them are missing out on a lot of nutritious stuff like Choline, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Beta Carotene, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin.
There is no questioning that the eggs from a free-range or pasture fed chicken are noticeably better than any egg you will get from the grocery store. There are several reasons for this.
This first is, the USDA gives egg factories up to 30 days to get the eggs moved from the farm to a distribution center. That distribution center has another 30 days to sell the eggs. On average, the eggs in a grocery store are 6 weeks old, and in the worst case scenario, the eggs can be up to 2 months old! Moreover, the USDA doesn’t even require the eggs be dated so the consumer knows when they eggs were laid or packaged.
Secondly, chicken factories are all about profit. They squeeze tens of thousands of chickens into very overcrowded conditions for the sole purpose of producing as many eggs as possible with as little space as possible. In doing so, the chickens are stressed and release hormones, which are then passed to the egg.
Third, the hens in chicken factories rarely see the light of day, if ever. This does not lead to a healthy developmental process and in turn does not produce high quality eggs.
Fourth, don’t be fooled by the marketing pitch of “free range” or “non-caged” chicken eggs. It’s nothing but a scam. Regulations state the chicken factory simply has to have a door of any size leading to the outside to qualify as “free range”, even if the chickens never go outside. And many of the “non-caged” chickens live in deplorable conditions, often standing and eating from atop their own manure.
Last, the only way you can feed tens of thousands of chickens at once is with high density, high protein, non-organic, feed full of growth hormones. This feed is meant to trick the chickens bodies into laying as many eggs as possible. Commercial egg farms don’t feed chickens good organic food because it’s too expensive. Caged chickens are fed from a trough and the non-caged chickens eat off the floor, which is often covered in chicken manure.
If you compare a grocery store egg to a backyard chicken egg that is just days old, there is a huge difference in the yolk color and size, the consistency of the egg white, and most importantly the nutritional content. As for the nutritional value difference, check out these facts of a backyard chicken egg:
- 33% less cholesterol
- 24% less saturated fat
- 1.5 times more Vitamin A
- 2 time more omega-3 fatty acids (Good for the heart)
- 3 times more Vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
- 5 times more Vitamin D
Chickens raised in a backyard are in their natural element. They are eating living green plants and insects, not growth hormones and artificial feed full of chemicals. They are also getting real sunlight as opposed to artificial light. Furthermore, the chickens in a backyard are not overcrowded and stressed, which means they produce a lot less hormones. By looking at the image at the beginning of this post, you can see the difference in the yolk color. The difference in taste is subtle at first, but profound when you try to go back to grocery store egg. It’s like switching from 2% milk to non-fat. Once you go back, you can really taste the difference.
Bottom line is, there truly is a difference in the egg quality from a backyard, open range, organic fed chicken. That’s not to say the eggs from the grocery stores are bad for you, but I wanted to point out they are not as good for you as an homegrown hen’s eggs.
This is by and large the reason so many people have decided to raise their own chickens at home, just as was that case with my family. Not to mention, they are fun to watch and the kids loving collecting the eggs each day. It’s become a tradition in our house to cook and egg quiche every Sunday. On the weeks we have extra eggs, we sell them for $5 a dozen, which amounts to about $20 a month. This is enough to buy a 40 lbs bag of organic feed that supplements their diet during the winter months when there is less to eat.