Eggstra wonderful nutrition: Ruth Gonzalez takes a look at the local egg scene.

Author:Gonzalez, Ruth
Position:BUY LOCAL
 
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Cracked open a local, free-range egg lately? Usually the eggshells are thick and hard to crack. The very act of hens running around in the pasture pecking at any edible plant or bug seems to make all the difference. The sturdy golden yolks resist Breaking even when flipped in a skillet, and the taste is rich and flavorful. Comparatively, a caged hen's personal space is roughly equivalent to the size of a laptop computer, and industrial scale flocks can number 100,000 hens.

All eggs are nutrition-dense and contain a multitude of important vitamins and minerals. One large egg is only 75 calories with a near-perfect amino acid combination that equals premium-quality protein. The American Egg Board claims there is no nutritional difference Between eggs sourced from conventionally caged hens and free-range hens. However, extensive research by Mother Earth News reports that eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain a third less cholesterol, a fourth less saturated fats, significantly more vitamins A and E, twice the omega-3 fatty acids, and seven times more beta-carotene. Eggs are a cost effective source of protein, too. If a dozen free-range eggs costs $3.69, then a serving size of two eggs costs less than $0.62 cents per serving. What a deal!

Tasting the difference makes it truly compelling to seek out locally raised eggs. Conventional egg producers, and even large-scale free-range egg producers, cannot compete with the quality and freshness offered By our local farmers. "Commercial eggs are too watery, and the yolks are too small," say Donna Price and Heidi Zednik, tailgate market regulars. "If you have a good local egg connection, the farmers will stash the jumbo's for you!" The taste and size of the yolk is especially important to Heidi Because she "loves three-minute eggs." They count on Blue Hill Farm and Hickory Nut Gap Farm for their weekly egg fix, but local egg-lovers can choose from many area producers.

Most local eggs are designated Organic, Free-Range or Cage-Free. Organic means that the chickens have been fed organic, antibiotic-free feed their whole life and have access to the outdoors. The hens in free-range flocks must have access to the outdoors. Because they go outside, they generally eat a wide variety of plants and Bugs in addition to their chicken feed. Birds with outdoor access also enjoy sunshine and fresh air. Farmers using free-range and organic production systems often put their chickens up at...

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