Sunday, August 08, 2010

More proof of nutritional differences with free range eggs

There is now more evidence that free range eggs have a higher nutritional value than factory farmed eggs.  Recent research by the US Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences compared caged bird eggs with those laid by free range flocks  – and it found that that free range chickens eggs are indeed better for you.

Researchers examined how the levels of omega-3 fatty acids and concentrations of vitamins A and E differed in eggs from actively pastured hens able to eat legumes or mixed grasses compared with eggs from hens in cages.

Lead Investigator Heather Karstan said, “Compared to eggs of the commercial hens, eggs from pastured hens eggs had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids,” she said. “Vitamin A concentration was 38 percent higher in the pastured hens’ eggs than in the commercial hens’ eggs.”

The six week study was compared to caged birds which were fed their usual diet of commercial egg mash.

“The chicken has a short digestive tract and can rapidly assimilate dietary nutrients,” said Paul Patterson, Professor of Poultry Science, who was a co-investigator in the project. “Fat-soluble vitamins in the diet are readily transferred to the liver and then the egg yolk. Egg-nutrient levels are responsive to dietary change.

“Other research has demonstrated that all the fat-soluble vitamins, including A and E, and the unsaturated fats, linoleic and linolenic acids, are egg responsive, and that hen diet has a marked influence on the egg concentration.”

Anyone who keeps chickens with full beaks knows how the birds like to peck on pasture. It's a natural way of getting a vitamin boost.Some plants such as Purslane are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and when the chooks eat them the food values are transferred to the eggs. But of course if the hens are de-beaked they can't forage properly and there is little if any nutritional difference between factory farmed cage eggs and factory farmed 'free range' . Chickens need full beaks and quality fresh pasture with a variety of mixed grasses and other vegetation as well as a balanced ration of grains, to gain all their essential vitamins and nutrients.

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