Happy Earth Day! - Be Plant Positive!

No Spring Chicken?

10 April 2023

Spring has sprung and this April brings a convergence of religious holidays. We’ve just celebrated Easter and Passover, and Eid-al-Fitr is coming up following an entire month of Ramadan. Since the mainstream media is already doing a great job telling us all how we are so different, consider how we are the same.

 All of these holidays commemorate a spiritual renewal. With the weather improving and nature sprouting everywhere, it's so empowering to think we all have a chance to start again too.

Food-wise, all three holidays traditionally make use of eggs.   It's no secret that grocery prices have gone up and nothing has caused as much uproar as the price of eggs.  We had supply chain issues and a shortage of farm workers caused by the pandemic, topped off with the avian flu (by the end of last year, 52.7 million birds had been wiped out by the disease or through culling, with layer hens the most susceptible).

If you follow my Instagram @greenbitesnutrition, you’ll know that I’ve compared the cost of eggs to tofu or flax substitutes, but what if you just want to eat eggs?

Pre-covid, you could walk into a supermarket and find twenty choices of eggs. The choices are more limited now, but confusion about labeling remains.  Do I look for cage free, pasture raised, organic or all natural?  

So, here’s a cheat sheet along with my personal recommendation:

All natural:  Not an official designation; this is just marketing.  All eggs (so far) come from hens, which is certainly natural.  What’s not natural is the way some of those hens are raised, but more on that later.

Cage free:  Hens are not kept in small individual cages, but they may be hoarded into a large barn without enough space to do their chicken dance.

Free Range: I’ll call this cage free plus.  There is no guarantee that they weren’t raised in crowded conditions and the outdoor area can be tiny.

Organic: In order to use the USDA Organic Seal, the final product must follow strict production, handling and labeling standards and go through a certification process.   Organic eggs were laid by hens fed grains grown without synthetic pesticides or GMOs. The birds are free range, but their outdoor space could be as basic as a small concrete porch.

Pasture-Raised: In general, pasture-raised hens are given the opportunity and space to roam on green, grassy pastures every day. There’s no USDA certification for this, so standards vary, but with the Certified Humane or the American Humane Certified labels, chickens must have access to a pasture with space to perform natural behaviors, such as pecking for seeds and bugs (yes, chickens are omnivorous!).

If you’re in the market for eggs (no pun intended), here are my RD-approved suggestions for your best health and their best quality:

  • Find a substitute - Use a plant-based alternative (not necessarily processed food alternatives, but basics like tofu, chickpea flour or flaxseed).
  • Backyard chickens – When you raise them yourself, not only do you know how the hen was treated, but you learn to appreciate the effort and energy that goes into producing that egg.
  • Farmers Market or CSA – Purchasing from your local farmer is another way to understand where your food is coming from and have a better sense of the treatment afforded the chickens.
  • Supermarket - There is really only one label I look for…are they humane certified? Happy hens produce the best eggs. :)

Reach out to me for those egg alternative recipes, or just to chat all things plant-based.

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