Free Range Vs. Ordinary Eggs

Real free-ranged, organic eggs compared to store bought regular and "organic" eggs.

Real free-ranged, organic eggs compared to store bought regular and “organic” eggs.

This image is a superb example of the difference between real organic, free-ranged eggs and regular store-bought and even store-bought “organic”.  Notice the two eggs at the bottom: pale yellow yolks with watery whites. The real home-grown, organic, free-ranged egg at the top stands out. The yolk is a deep red-gold and the white is so thick it would almost hold its shape. In fact, every morning when I crack such eggs into a pan, I have to work them a little bit just to get them to spread out.

But what are the nutritional differences between free-range organic and store-bought eggs? After decades of groceries and commercial egg producers telling us there were no differences, Mother Earth News Magazine hired an independent lab to analyse the eggs. Turns out free range, organic eggs are rich in carotene, HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and numerous beneficial amino acids, enzymes and minerals as well as high quality protein and even antioxidants. In fact, a true free-range, organic egg is like a capsule of most everything the body needs.

The difference between store-bought and sort-of organic eggs with real free-range organic is so radical, in fact, that it’s strikingly like the difference between having candy and veggies. But this is unsurprising, for this pattern is seen throughout all foods. True grass-fed, free-ranged beef has nearly the same nutritional quality as venison. True free-ranged poultry, even from modern meat hybrids, produces a firmer, darker meat throughout with nearly the same nutritional qualities as wild game birds. In fact, every year we raise 100 meat chickens for ourselves, and I can hardly taste the difference between such a chicken and a local pheasant or partridge.

Store-bought (left) and free-ranged (right) side-by-side.  A pale yellow yolk--what most people think of as a fine breakfast egg--is actually a sign of a sickly, poorly fed, crowded and anemic laying hen.

Store-bought (left) and free-ranged (right) side-by-side. A pale yellow yolk–what most people think of as a fine breakfast egg–is actually a sign of a sickly, poorly fed, crowded and anemic laying hen.


13 thoughts on “Free Range Vs. Ordinary Eggs

  1. Have to point this out for readers who may not know: the photo implies that the darker the shell color, the darker the yolk. Shell color has no bearing on yolk color or egg quality! Different breeds lay different color shells. There are brown egg layers (in varying shades), white egg layers, and blue/green egg layers. It’s what the chickens EAT that determine the quality and nutritional value of their eggs. Thus, pasture-raised chickens that eat greens and bugs have the most nutritious eggs and darkest yolks.

    Most factory farmed hens are Leghorns, a breed small in size that lays very large white eggs.

    • You are certainly correct, Kristina. I would add that how the chicken gets to live–how much space and fresh air and good water and romping and stomping it gets–affects its health, thus affecting the nutritional quality of the egg, too.

      • Agreed! And subtly, even energetically, I’m sure a happier hen’s egg tastes better still 🙂

  2. And we have maybe two of the happiest hens in SFLA…yet our yolks are nowhere near as dark as the ones pictured…both free range with feed supplement…whites set firmer, quicker and yolks creamier, a bit darker than Egglands Best/store bought…perfect sizes….Sillver Laced Wyandotts, breed effects color, yes?…post seems to suggest that super duper free range is producing the very ‘best’…IDK…


    • Don

      If you want a darker yellow yolk feed your hens Cargill’s nutrena laying feed with marigold flowers

    • I do not honestly know if breeds will affect yolk color and albumin consistency. But I do know that allowing poultry to exercise and eat the foods they are intended to makes the eggs better quality in terms of appearance and nutrition. Good luck with your birds 🙂

  3. du u mean that the feeding habit is a key factor leading 2 difference of the yorks?

  4. Strangely, this small, innocuous post has been one of the busiest on my little website. Most of the would-be replies, I have opted to delete as the majority of them were from poultry farmers using modern battery farming techniques who merely wanted to argue that battery farming is as good as organic, free-ranging, and my site exists as an informative resource, not a locale for debate. To be honest, I couldn’t care a wit if some battery farmer is offended by the materials on my site.

    The lead argument they posed was that it is merely the grasses and sedges upon which poultry graze that cause darker yolks. It is an odd argument to pose, for it is much like arguing it is merely the spring grass which allow dairy cattle to yield the butteriest milk. Which is, without doubt, blatantly true, though over simplified. The quality of free-ranged product, be it meat or egg, is superior to battery farmed product, regardless of the time of the year (hence available grasses and sedges) in which we free-range our livestock. Right now, for example, we are getting winter eggs, mostly the results of the poultry scratching about in the barn and living on corn and oat stores, that are still dark, firm and easily contrasted against battery farmed eggs.

    Bear in mind, we raise a lot of birds (as well as other livestock). We are far from a commercial endeavor, but are pretty self-sufficient in regard to poultry. We keep two to three dozen laying hens, Rhode Island Reds and Golden Comets, mostly, as well as raise about 100 meat chickens each year. In addition, we raise a couple dozen turkeys, geese and ducks. Additionally, we have a flock of nearly a dozen dairy goats and have the occasional cow or pig, to boot. We have a lot of experience with free-ranging and its benefits on meat, poultry product and dairy product quality. It is universally superior.

    The message that I have posted here is very simple, and it applies not just to poultry, but to all livestock. Free-ranging, organic and permaculture techniques of farming yield better qualities of eggs and meat, and if you dairy farm, better qualities of milk and milk products such as cheese, cream and butter. Whatever your resources, the more you can allow your animals access to range, exercise, open grazing and scratching and rooting (whatever your animal’s preference), the better off the animal will be, the more humanely it has been raised, and the healthier will be the end product.

  5. Pingback: More than just a happy chicken | thehealthybugs

  6. Patricia Loomis

    What exactly describes free range chickens. Someone told me if there is a window in the chicken house that is free range. I don’t think so but want an exact answer. My chickens run free and roost in my barn as they please. Would they be considered organic? I buy commercial laying crumbles but not sure if it is organic.

    • In my experience, bureaucrats and industrial-scale farms frequently attempt sophistry to make this term meaningless. Here in Nova Scotia, for example, turkey farms can claim their turkeys are free range if there is a window in the barn, yet the NS turkey cartel’s own regs state the turkeys must never eat or drink off the ground or run free outside.

      But the common sense and only meaningful definition of free range anything is the livestock get to run free. They have room to fly and run, scratch and peck, and live like animals should and want to. We have the acreage to allow our livestock to do that. More space restricted places might have to create a yard for them, or a pasture, but at least they get out of doors and can follow their instincts.

      Indeed, perhaps that should be the true definition–enough space and varied terrain to allow the animals to live according to their instincts. Combine that with researched happiness measures and you may have a good standard of “free range”.

  7. Having the difference in the two eggs. Do you think that would change any thing on the allergies side?
    I am allergic to cow meat but i’m not allergic to grass fed cow meat. Do you think that it would be the same with free range chicken eggs to regular?

    • I suspect you would not be allergic to free range eggs though admittedly I am not an expert on the matter. You could, if you’re allergy is not too severe, try a small sample of a free range egg (say a quarter of an egg) and see how you fare for a day. If that goes well, try a larger sampe sample. Slowly increase the amount for a week or two and see how you do.

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