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Posts tagged ‘Food Security’

Decoding Egg Labels

The other day I drove past a roadside sign selling ‘Farm Fresh Brown Eggs’. Well heck, who doesn’t like farm fresh eggs? Especially brown farm fresh eggs. But what does the color brown have to do with anything? Is it more nutritious? Does it mean that the eggs are organic? Turns out there are a bunch of possible labels for eggs, so today we’re going to try to make some sense of them with the help of these definitions from Sustainable Table.

Hormone Free
The USDA has prohibited use of the term “Hormone Free,” but meats can be labeled “No Hormones Administered.”

Cage-Free
Birds are raised without cages. What this doesn’t explain is if the birds were raised outdoors on pasture, if they had access to outside, or if they were raised indoors in overcrowded conditions. If you are looking to buy eggs, poultry or meat that was raised outdoors, look for a label that says “Pastured” or “Pasture-raised”.

GMO-Free or No GMOs
The product was produced without the use of GMOs (genetically-modified organisms). For more information, visit the Genetic Engineering page in the Issues section.

Natural
Currently, no standards exist for this label except when used on meat and poultry products. USDA guidelines state that “Natural” meat and poultry products can only undergo minimal processing and cannot contain artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or other artificial ingredients. However, “natural” foods are not necessarily sustainable, organic, humanely raised, or free of hormones and antibiotics. The label “natural” is virtually meaningless.

No antibiotics administered, raised without antibiotics or antibiotic-free
No antibiotics were administered to the animal during its lifetime. If an animal becomes sick, it will be taken out of the herd and treated but it will not be sold with this label.

Organic
In order to be labeled “organic,” a product, its producer, and the farmer must meet the USDA’s organic standards and must be certified by a USDA-approved food-certifying agency. Organic foods cannot be grown using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, or sewage sludge, cannot be genetically modified, and cannot be irradiated. Organic meat and poultry must be fed only organically-grown feed (without any animal byproducts) and cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics. Furthermore, the animals must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants must have access to pasture (which doesn’t mean they actually have to go outdoors and graze on pasture to be considered organic.

Pastured or Pasture-Raised
Indicates the animal was raised on a pasture and that it ate grasses and food found in a pasture, rather than being fattened on grain in a feedlot or barn. Pasturing livestock and poultry is a traditional farming technique that allows animals to be raised in a humane, ecologically sustainable manner. This is basically the same as grass-fed, though the term pasture-raised indicates more clearly that the animal was raised outdoors on pasture.

How we label our eggs
Although we raise our birds on pasture with organic feed, we aren’t certified organic, so we don’t label them so. We also don’t grade or classify our eggs so we label them “ungraded” and “unclassified”. In PA, if you label your cartons with a particular grade, they have to be inspected to confirm they meet that grade. Since we’re selling our eggs to friends and neighbors, they know how we raise them, and we want them to see it for themselves. Isn’t that the best label of all?

* This post was originally published on August 23, 2011.

 

Are Pasture Raised Eggs Better For You?

Yes, and a number of studies can prove it.

A recent study from the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems found that hens raised on pasture, meaning they eat a small amount of grain but get most of their diet by foraging in the grass for bugs, have 2.5 times more omega-3 fatty acids and 2 times as much vitamin E than chickens raised in concentrated, industrial hen houses.

Another 1998 study found that the omega-3 content of pastured eggs was as much as 10 times higher than conventional eggs (i.e. the store-bought kind). And, although not a peer-reviewed scientific journal, the magazine Mother Earth News conducted its own nutrient analysis of pastured eggs and found that they contained a third less cholesterol, one-fourth less saturated fat, and seven times more beta carotene than what the USDA estimates is found in conventional, factory-farmed eggs.

What’s more, they found that pastured eggs contained up to six times more vitamin D, which nearly all Americans are deficient in and which can ward off multiple forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression while also boosting your immunity. Eggs from hens raised on pasture are far more nutritious than eggs from confined hens in factory farms.

Click here to download Mother Earth News full article on Better Eggs

* This post was originally published on June 28, 2011.

 

The Zero Waste Chicken

Like many first time flock owners, our primary motivation for starting a flock of our own was the desire for fresh, delicious eggs from a trusted source – ourselves. It didn’t take long to realize that there were many other benefits to keeping a flock of chickens, benefits that are essential to the well being of our backyard ecosystem.

In an article written for McMurray hatchery, author and chicken expert Patricia Foreman lists why chickens are considered by many as an “essential part of urban agriculture that helps folks achieve some degree of self-sufficiency”.

Foreman encourages flock owners to think ‘outside the coop’ and argues for the many benefits of pasture raised birds. She goes on to list and explain more than half-a-dozen different, but inter-related “chicken skill sets’, things like pest and weed control, bio-mass waste management and fertilizer creation and distribution.

This closed loop system of inputs and outputs is so efficient and beneficial, with little to no waste whatsoever, that Mother Nature herself must have designed it.

One standard chicken eats about 8 pounds of food “waste” a month. A few hundred households keeping micro-flocks of laying hens can divert tons of yard and food biomass “waste” from trash collection saving municipalities millions … ~ City Chicks

So above and beyond the amazing fact that chicken eggs are a healthy source of protein (which they can produce over and over again), there are many other less celebrated benefits that those birds bring to the table (ahem). All of which makes it clear that the true value of your flock can’t simply be calculated by the price of the eggs they produce.

And even with the long list of practical skills enumerated, there are other simpler reasons to keep those birds near and dear, it’s because we like them. They are often beautiful creatures, and entertaining to watch as well as listen to. When all is said and done, they simply make great pets.

For more information about living sustainably – with or without chickens – take a look at some of these resources:

 

Feed Yourself. Feed Others.

Over the last 30 days, Eggzy flock owners have logged 5226 eggs. On average, each egg contains 6 grams of protein, totaling a whopping 31,356 grams of protein produced in the last month!!

You’re probably already aware that enabling Food Security is core to our mission at Eggzy; where “Food Security” is the availability of nutritious food and one’s access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of hunger. That’s why we’re pledging to donate a dozen eggs from our own flock to our local food pantry once a month, or whenever possible.

Now 12 eggs may not sound like much, but we don’t have a large flock. We average 4 eggs a day or 28 eggs a week, which gives us an average of 9 dozen a month. We keep a dozen a week for ourselves and sell a dozen a week to friends, so our ‘extra’ is a little more than 12 eggs a month, weather and flock disposition allowing.

Fresh, healthy foods are always in short supply at food pantries, and they’d certainly appreciate any extra eggs we can collectively donate. The truth is, eggs are such a great source of nutrition that even a dozen goes a long way. An average size egg has 6 grams of protein, giving a dozen eggs a total 72 grams of protein (12 x 6 = 72 grams).

If you’d like to join us in our New Year’s resolution to share more this year, here are a couple of resources to help you find your local food pantry or soup kitchen.

Best Wishes & Happy New Year,

Team Eggzy