I’ll admit that this isn’t the highest quality photo ever, but this morning I had a chance to do something that I don’t normally get to: crack open two eggs side by side, one from the grocery store and one from our chickens. So, phone-quality photo aside, can you tell which of these two is the certified organic, cage free egg? Would you believe me if I told you it was the lighter, more flaccid yellow yolk? That’s right, the certified organic, cage free egg is the store-bought egg on the left. That deep, nearly orange, yolk is actually from our free-ranging, pasture based poultry. The catch in today’s little quiz was in the word “certified.” As our friend Joel Salatin often remarks, we try to go “beyond organic.” Just because the government grants a product the right to use certain words in its labeling, doesn’t necessarily mean its superior. We raise our birds on organic pasture, from organic seeds, that is never sprayed for pests or weeds. We supply our birds with organic, soy-free feed supplements. In every way our eggs are “organic,” but they’re not certified organic. That’s not to say that we don’t value organic principles, we absolutely do. It’s just to say, the real value is knowing your farmer, the one that raised your food, knowing the effort and quality they put into it, and knowing that what you think you’re purchasing is actually what you’re getting. In the case of these two eggs, which would you prefer, the organic, cage-free egg, or the Sunbird Farms egg?
A quick primer on egg quality. The quality of an egg can be seen internally by observing both the color, and the tension of the yolk. The longer the egg is stored, the more of the albumen (egg white) the yolk absorbs and the larger and more flat (flaccid) it becomes. Color is the result of carotenoids, which are pigmenting nutrients found in plants. They are also a powerful source of anti-oxidants, and have been found to help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease. However, because consumers are be coming more educated about the quality of egg yolks, the commercial egg production industry has started adding coloring agents to their feed. Regardless of the attempts by the industrial egg producers, as the saying goes, “a pictures worth a thousand words.” Hope you enjoyed this read.