Thursday, August 25, 2011
Why do we want to eat eggs from the backyard?
For the same reasons that a freshly picked heirloom tomato from the garden tastes and looks superior to a uniform grocery store tomato, fresh eggs we have collected ourselves from hens that spend their days roaming about outdoors also give us significantly more gustatory pleasure.
It starts with the smooth texture of the shell, but the differences inside are quite clear as well. Farm fresh eggs have a different colour and texture, and most people are adamant that they taste better too. (To be quite honest, I can't be the judge of that, since I stopped eating grocery store eggs a long time ago). My friend Stephanie, who was a pastry chef in her former professional life, is adamant that farm eggs hold up better when she bakes.
Quantifying eggs' nutritional benefits can be difficult (though it has been done), because they can vary from farm to farm depending on what and how much the hens eat, and how much time they spend outdoors. We do know that every single commercially raised hen in Ontario spends every day of its shortened lifespan indoors. She never gets to forage in the ground for the grubs, bugs and seeds that form her natural diet. Producers can supplement commercial feed with individual nutrients, but we know enough about nutrition to know that there's a lot that nutritional scientists still need to learn.
To continue with the tomato analogy, it would be reasonable to expect different nutritional results for each heirloom tomato sample you might try. In the same way, it would be very hard to design a nutritional analysis that statistically represents the majority of free range eggs.
In my opinion, people who obsess about the nutritional elements of individual food items totally miss the point of healthy eating.
By focusing on a whole diet that is mainly sourced from unprocessed foods grown close to home or purchased locally from farmers markets, rather than a collection of standardized products from grocery stores that are trucked in from many miles away, we are healthier overall. I don't need to see studies to prove that, and nor should you.
For those of us who have children, it's really important to set them up for a lifetime of good eating habits. We incorporate a variety of food in their diets in a way that allows them to experience the source of their foods in their every day activities. When children pick their own raspberries, cherry tomatoes and peas in the garden, they are naturally much more in touch with healthy foods than kids who know where to find a nutraceutical-laden packaged bar in the grocery cupboard.
So too with eggs. I have never come across a child that hasn't clamoured to be allowed to collect eggs from the coop, and that's the first step in getting them to enjoy one of Nature's most ubiquitous wonder foods.