18 things you should know about eggs, chickens and nutrition

eggs carton egg brown white
"What came first? The chicken or the egg?" - Unknown

Some people have a cat as a pet others prefer a furry guinea pig. My grandfather had chickens. Mostly brown chickens. So we had brown eggs. And the chickens really liked my grandfather. I’m not sure if this was part of conditioning because they knew every time he checked on them, they were in for a treat. Maybe they actually accepted him as the male head of the pack. Sometimes the pack was joined by a rooster but usually they didn’t stay very long. They can get very protective over their hens. In the case of my grandfather this sometimes resulted in a bloody hand. Just to warn you the beaks of roosters are sharp. Once my sister actually named one of the roosters because he reminded her of a very popular guy from the village. He had chicks follow him too. Enough about chickens let’s talk about their eggs.

Do hens need a rooster to lay eggs?

To answer the most pressing question you might have in regards to keeping chickens. No! They don’t need a rooster. Hens will lay eggs no matter what. Only if you want little chickens, then you need a rooster to fertilize the egg. So if you are not eating any eggs because you think chickens are forced to lay eggs, then I can assure you that this is not the case. They will lay eggs anyway. This is a different story with milk though. Cows are actually kept pregnant so they will give milk. But that’s a topic for another blog post.

Why are some yolks richer in color than others?

The color of the yolk depends on the feed of the chickens. Chickens that spend their whole day wandering around in the yard, picking on things that grow or crawl along the way, tend to lay eggs with yolks that are richer in color. The color comes from natural pigments (carotenoids) found in some plants. But corn fed to caged hens will accomplish the same.

Will this transfer into the taste?

Of course it will. But that is just my personal opinion. Everything that was made with love instead of greed will taste better. You will agree once you compared an egg from a “happy chicken” and an egg from an “unhappy chicken”.

Are eggs nutritious?

Yes, they are. An egg contains all the essential nutrients. Think about it. In case the rooster mingles with the chickens, the egg needs to provide all the nutrients the chick needs for its development, until it is strong enough to work its way out of the shell. Yes, there is no IV that feeds the little guy in its first 21 days of life.

Are eggs from “happy hens” more nutritious?

12 large eggsIf you only compare the macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrate content) you will not find any difference. What makes an egg from “happy hens” more preferable is what’s not in the egg. If a hen suffers with a bunch of other hens in a small cage with a wired bottom, you can imagine that this environment is not only stressful but can make the hens sick (how do you clean such a cage?). One practice was to fed them antibiotics to prevent disease. Apparently nowadays eggs are thrown away from hens that were treated with antibiotics. I’m just wondering how they keep track of the hens and their eggs? Do they have a separate section for sick hens? Anyway it proven that antibiotics used in livestock contribute to resistant bacteria in humans. Arsenic, which promotes growth in hens and is linked to cancer in humans, might be added to the feed. All this stuff transfers into the egg, which you than eat. The use of hormones in raising poultry has been banned in Canada since the 1960’s. So all eggs are from chickens raised “without hormones”. Still some marketer use this claim on the packaging to gain your trust.

“Happy hens” for me are chickens that are able to pick their food. They eat greens and bugs while pawing the soil and socializing with other chickens. They lay eggs because it’s part of their life not because someone wants to make money with the eggs.

Would you buy a homemade brownie from someone who looks sad and sick or rather from someone who looks happy and healthy?

Are brown eggs more nutritious than white eggs?

No! It’s all about the look. The white-feathered chickens lay white eggs and brown-feathered chickens lay brown eggs. However, there are chickens that lay blue’-ish eggs but I don’t know what their feathers look like. In regards to egg shell thickness the color of the shell is no indicator. Turkey eggs have a harder shell than chicken eggs. Chicken eggshells are harder than the ones from guinea fowls. I remember my grandfather adding some chalk (calcium carbonate) to the feed, which was supposed to promote a strong shell.

What can I do with eggshells?

Many things. Let’s point out the two I was shown by my mother.

1. Eggshells are a splendid coffee pot cleaner. Coffee leaves behind these ugly brown stains in your thermos. Simply crush the eggshell, put it in the thermos with some water and soap and then start shaking and turning.

2. Do you have a garden and compost? Eggshells quickly decompose and add valuable minerals to your soil.

What is the difference between “organic”, “free-range” and “free-run” eggs?

  • Organic eggs – the best choice
    Chickens that lay “organic” eggs live on farms that have passed animal welfare standards. That often requires organic feed without hormones, animal byproducts, GMO’s or antibiotics. Producers have to pay a fee to be certified.

There is no legal definition in Canada for the following claims. The actually environment can vary from farm to farm.

  • Free-range eggs
    Free-range chickens live in an open concept barn and have access to outdoors where they can exercise and socialize. They have exposure to sunlight, fresh air and their feet can touch real ground/soil.
  • Free-run eggs
    These chickens can move around in a barn-like area. But it doesn’t mean that they have access to the outside or see daylight. It could also mean that they have to share the “barn” with tons of other chickens in cramped quarters.
  • Omega-rich eggs
    All eggs contain some omega-3 fatty acids. Sometimes omega-3 rich food is added to the feed to increase the content in the egg. However, if the egg needs an additional selling point like “omega-3 rich”, it was probably laid by a hen that lives in a cage. Please care about animal welfare and don’t fall for claims on the carton. 90% of Canada’s egg-laying hens are confined.

Can I trust the marketing claims when I buy eggs at the supermarket or the farmers market?

egg distribution vespaWell, that is a good question. I have food trust issues since I discovered that you can make brownies with black beans. So it comes down to your gut feeling. However, there have been cases where eggs from caged hens where claimed as free-run or free-range eggs. However, apart from “organic” labeled eggs there is no independent body that certifies hens have received adequate access to outdoors.

If you are at the farmers market ask questions and see how comfortable the person is in answering your questions. What do you feed your chickens? Where do your chickens live? Have they access to the outdoors? How many chickens do you have? How many eggs do you sell a week? You can be suspicious if a farmer has 10 hens but sells 200 eggs a week. Do the math. The average hen lays less than an egg per day (approx. 0.75 egg per hen per day).  10hens x 0.75eggs x 7days = 51 eggs a week

How can I tell if an egg is fresh without cracking it?

If you look at an egg you will see a rounder bottom and a pointy top. At the bottom the egg has an air pocket. In a newly laid egg, the air pocket is hardly there. When days and weeks pass, air gets in and the air pocket gets bigger. Just like with our air mattress in the water, less air means you and the mattress will sink when it’s in the water, lots of air in the mattress means it will float. So submerge your egg in a glass of cold water. If it sinks and stays in a horizontal position, it’s fresh. If it tilts up slightly it’s about a week old. If it floats in a vertical position then you might reconsider eating it.

How can I tell if an egg is fresh after cracking it?

When you crack a fresh egg without destroying the egg yolk, you will see that the yolk is surrounded by a firm round ring of egg white. This outer layer will get flatter and watery when weeks pass by.

How long do eggs last?

Eggs can last up to 4 to 5 weeks with proper storage.

How should I store eggs?

eggs egg basket storage

Corner store in Marrakesh

That depends on where you live. My grandfather always stored the eggs in a dark pantry with “cool” room temperature and not in the fridge.

In the US producers are required to wash eggs in at least 90 degree Fahrenheit warm detergent water. Then the eggs are sprayed with sanitizer and dried. Unfortunately this procedure also damages the natural protection of the egg. That is why the “processed” egg is now better stored at a consistent temperature of 45 degree Fahrenheit or lower.

When the egg is laid by the hen it is covered with a protective coating around it that prevents contamination. The EU has ruled out egg washing because they think it can do more damage than good. The EU law also says that eggs should not be refrigerated before the sale to the final consumer. Condensation that would build up due to a change in temperature could promote the growth of bacteria on the shell.

However, to be on the safe side store your eggs in the fridge in the case or carton you purchased them.

What came first? The chicken or the egg?

This I do not know. Please leave a comment in the section below if you have a theory or answer to this question.

Is liquid egg white healthy?

Liquid egg white is processed and convenient food. Liquid egg white in a carton is not natural and not part of a healthy whole food diet. The eggs are 100% from hens that have to suffer in cages. And I speculate that eggs are being used that couldn’t be used for “normal” retail due to abnormal shape or damage to the shell. But that’s just me speculating. Decide for yourself if you like to support such a product.

What is the healthiest way to cook an egg?

Great nutrients are located in the egg yolk. These nutrients can be damaged by high heat and oxygen. Whatever your preference, poached, boiled or fried I recommend that you leave the yolk a little bit on the runny side. When you can’t live without scrambled eggs, make sure to use low heat and eat them as soon as they’re done.

Aren’t eggs bad for my health because they contain cholesterol?

No. The cholesterol topic in itself provides enough content to fill its own blog post. But to make it short, your body produces cholesterol itself. If you cut dietary cholesterol out of your diet your body produces more. Without cholesterol your skin would be dry and a flake factory. You would act like a zombie because your brain would definitely not function at all. And life would be boring because there would be no sex or adrenal hormones. In fact, very low cholesterol diets weaken the immune system and increase the risk of cancer.

Aren’t eggs on the list of controversy foods that can cause allergies?

That is right. Egg white and egg yolk contain proteins that can cause allergies. If you suspect eggs to be problematic for you, talk to a (naturopath) doctor. There are blood tests available that can determine food sensitivities or allergies. A nutritionist can help you to find ways to reduce or eliminate eggs from your diet.

More to come:

  • Why cholesterol wrongly has a bad reputation. Understand what dietary habits actually can cause high blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis.
  • Nutritional content of an egg broken down. Why you should eat the yolk and not egg whites only.
  • The difference between food sensitivity and food allergy.
18 things you should know about eggs, chickens and nutrition by
Tanja Knapp
About the Author
Tanja Knapp

Tanja Knapp is an Explorer, Adventurer and Happiness Hunter currently camping in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. Her roots are in Germany where she grew up on a remote farm. A colony of abnormal cells in her cervix taught her the lesson that would change her life forever. Life doesn't get better by chance, it get better by change. She truly believes in creating happiness & health through constant adapting, growing and evolving. Her super power is curiosity. With her blog she likes to inspire others to explore uncharted territory.

If she is not busy writing, running, swimming or cycling, she is expanding her knowledge, exploring the World, and taking on new challenges.

She is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and graduated with an Honors diploma in Holistic Nutrition from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in 2013. She obtained a Hospitality certification in 1998 and a Marketing Communications diploma in 2004. She has worked both in Europe and North America.

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