Why You Should Choose Pastured Eggs Not Just Organic or Free-Range

Intensely farmed chickens

Intensely farmed chickens

In a nutshell: If it’s not pastured then it’s probably corn fed and that means less omega 3 fatty acids and more omega 6’s.

If it’s non-organic there’s a good chance that the chickens are also dosed with antibiotics as the enclosed and over populated environment that they are raised in causes them to become sick. The antibiotics also help them grow faster so they can be slaughtered earlier and sold on quicker.

All this passes through to the eggs you are eating!

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Our bodies need omega 3 & omega 6 fatty acids. They are called “essential” fatty acids as we are unable to produce them ourselves. However if the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids exceeds about 1:4 then health problems can increase.

Pastured animals and their products (eggs, milk, cheese, etc.) have a higher level of omega 3 as they get this by eating insects and worms, etc. A pastured egg will have a ratio of about 1:1 whereas a conventional egg could be as high as 1:16!

In the UK any chickens used for egg production that are classed as “organic” have to have access to outside pastures or be fed sprouted grains when indoors. This is the official description from DEFRA (Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs):

Organic systems are similar to those of free range however the guidelines for the birds and their feed are more stringent. The pullets must be raised by certified organic production methods from birth. The layers are required to have outdoor access all year round, or be fed sprouted grains for the period when indoors and all feed must be certified organic. No antibiotics or meat by-products are allowed in the feed and each bird is required to have 2 square feet of floor space.

and

Poultry must have access to open air runs whenever the weather conditions permit and wherever possible must have such access for at least one third of their life

So whilst you could assume that organic chickens have access to pastures the “or be fed sprouted grains for the period when indoors” and “wherever possible must have such access for at least one third of their life” are a bit ambiguous and open to interpretation!
The safest bet is to go for brands that state they are reared outside.

Which Brands Are Grass Fed?

Duchy from Ocado

These british reared laying hens thrive on the freedom of their outdoor life and are kept in small flocks on the organic pastures of family run farms.

Daylesford

Our brown hens are energetic, thrive on the outdoor lifestyle and organic diet we give them.

Laid by the contented hens who roam and peck about our organic farm in Gloucestershire.

Laverstoke Park
One of my favourite brands for all things grass-fed.

Our pure bred French hens each lay approximately 180 eggs per year, where as a conventional hybrid hen will lay over 320 per year. A hen’s diet has a major influence on the nutritional value of the eggs produced. A good diet of whole grains, fresh pastures and all the worms and insects they can find creates eggs with an Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio of close to 1:1. Most commercially produced battery eggs have a ratio of approximately 16:1.

Riverford Organic Farms

The eggs we sell come from organic chickens reared to Soil Association standards. The birds are kept in flocks of less than 500 birds, are reared to an age of at least 81 days and have access to organic pasture during daylight hours for at least two thirds of that time. The pasture should be left fallow to recover for approximately 50% of the cycle. Obviously the chicken feed must comply with organic standards.

Woodwards Farm

Our happy and healthy hens have over twice the area to roam compared to commercial free range hens. They are accompanied by a small flock of guinea fowl who like to let us know when a wild fox is nearby!
Their bright orange yolk is the true sign of a free range egg. Rich in flavour the yolk is formed from the freedom the hens have to peck and eat at the newly emerging shoots of grass and other native plants and weeds growing in the field.

You can also find an exhaustive list of grass-fed, organic products here.

If you know of any other brands available in the UK then please leave a comment below and I will update the list

Further Reading