Thursday, February 27, 2020
Better nutrition in free range eggs
Academic researchers often produce theories and reports designed to demonstrate what 'free range' means in the egg industry. Celebrity chefs usually confine themselves to mistaken comments that bright yolk colour defines whether or not an egg is free range. Yolk colour varies, depending on the hen’s diet. If the yolk colour is always a bright, golden almost orange colour, the hens have almost certainly been fed colouring additives. Academic findings are usually based on carefully arranged criteria set by an organisation which funded the research and expected specific outcomes. Far better to rely on the experience of those in the industry actually running free range egg farms. Some people are fixated on the issue of animal welfare and they lose sight of matters like food safety and land sustainability. Outdoor stocking density is a key example. Academics found it easy to come up with results from research on small scale or short term projects to demonstrate that stocking densities had little or no impact on hen welfare. But it has been impossible for them to demonstrate that high densities had no detrimental impact on pasture quality, pollution of waterways, groundwater and the long term productivity of the land as a result of excessive nutrient loads. The maximum sustainable stocking density for poultry has been established at 1500 hens per hectare to minimise land degredation and ensure the long-term viability of the land. Laying hens, like most if not all other animals, perform best when they are able to follow their natural behaviour. They clearly need shelter, food and water but they also need to wander around freely to forage, scratch, dust bathe and interact socially with others in the flock. There is growing evidence that eggs from hens raised on pasture have nutritional benefits over the factory farm versions. In 1974, the British Journal of Nutrition found that pastured eggs had 50 percent more folic acid and 70 percent more vitamin B12 than eggs from factory farm hens. In 1988, Artemis Simopoulos, co-author of The Omega Diet, found pastured eggs in Greece contained 13 times more Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than U.S. commercial eggs. A 1998 study in Animal Feed Science and Technology found that pastured eggs had higher Omega 3 and vitamin E than eggs from caged hens. A 1999 study by Barb Gorski at Pennsylvania State University found that eggs from pastured birds had 10 percent less fat, 34 percent less cholesterol, 40 percent more vitamin A, and four times the Omega 3 compared to the standard USDA data. In 2003, another study at Pennsylvania State University found that pastured eggs had three times more Omega 3, 220 % more vitamin E and 62 % more vitamin A than eggs from caged hens.