At the farmer’s market on Saturday I noticed a new egg vendor with a flashy trailer and bright sign that proudly read:
‘100% organic vegetarian fed’
So, in true Libby style I inquired…
Libby: “What is in the feed?”
Answer: “Barley, soy, corn, etc… We can’t really guarantee what they get week to week because our supplier changes its formulation often.” *HUH??*
Libby: “Are the chickens outside running around (ie. Pastured)?”
Answer: “No, we only have an acre of land so the hens are ‘free run’ inside a large barn.
Problems with Vegetarian Fed Eggs
1. Chickens aren’t vegetarian! They are omnivors and prefer pecking at rocks and earth to get at worms, grubs, slugs, snails and all kinds of insects as well as sprouts, seeds, clover etc… . A forced vegetarian diet wreaks havoc on a chicken! Their protein to amino acid balance gets out of whack and causes them to get sick!
This can cause them to turn on and actually peck at each other in search of nutrients! The industry’s answer to this lack, is to supplement their ‘vegetarian feed’ with a synthetic version of methionine (an amino acid that is critical for feather formation).
2. Without being pastured, a hen cannot engage in her natural behavior of pecking and scratching at the ground in search of bugs at the same time receiving much needed vitamins from the sun. This natural habitat allows her diet to be rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and protein. This in turn creates the most nutritionally dense and perfectly balanced eggs.
3. Vegetarian fed hens produce a paler, weaker egg yolk than their omnivorous counterparts. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself! Crack a vegetarian fed egg in a small bowl next to a properly fed, omnivorous egg and prepare for your mind to be blown…..seriously! It will cause you to be very choosey when it comes to eating a pale, sad yolk vs. a vivacious orange yolk! I did this recently with my kids to show them the difference between the two and it led to a a conversation about happy, healthy hens and their connection to our nutrition.
How to Shop for Eggs (cuz I know, it’s confusing!)