I like to think that I buy only the best, especially since going Paleo. Grass-fed meats, quality fruits and veggies etc. But sometimes you just can’t spend $200 on groceries. Especially when your salary isn’t the highest. Yes, it’s an investment in your health…blah blah blah. But let’s be serious. Nobody is perfect all the time.
One of my key pieces of Paleo advice is “pick your battles.” Think about what’s important to you and stick true to those. For example, I do not buy processed foods for the house. Period. But there are days when I’ll buy the regular fruit instead of the organic. No it’s not the best but that’s life.
Which brings me to eggs. There is a lot of talk about eggs on the internet: cage free, organic, vegetarian fed etc etc. It can be overwhelming. And if anyone takes a look at the prices for quality eggs, it’s enough to freak out and just buy the regular.
So I thought I would do a little experiment. I wanted to find out is it really worth paying more for eggs.
I purchased three different egg options. But before I get to the experiment, let’s take a closer look at what all the labels mean for each brand.
1. Dutch Farms Eggs – $1.69/dozen
For those of you wondering, “All Natural” means absolutely nothing. It’s not a regulated label given if they adhere to certain guidelines. It’s just marketing.
Also what would unnatural eggs be? Do they even make lab-created chicken eggs?
“United Egg Producers Certified”
The UEP is an industry trade group that certifies eggs. However they allow their members to use wire cages that are 67 square inches. That’s less than a piece of paper. According to them “the modern cage system has eliminated most diseases of the 1940s.” Yeah, right.
If that doesn’t turn you off, also know that the UEP has a long string of lawsuits against them, including one from 2008 for an alleged national price-fixing scheme.
2. Nature Fed Brown Eggs – $3.99 – $4.25/dozen
Just because eggs say cage-free does not mean they were allowed outside. Cage-free could mean the chickens are crammed into hen houses and never see the light of day.
So I did some investigation. If you take a look at the Nature Fed website, they say that not only are their chickens cage free but they are also “free-range.” According to them, each hen has a minimum of 2 square feet of outdoor space. And on the package it does say “Our hens enjoy outdoor access.”
However, notice that it says “outdoor access,” not spends time outdoors. To be free-range, all you need is a small door that is open occasionally. So be wary if you see this label.
According to package, the hens are fed only vegetarian feed. This isn’t necessarily a bad or good thing. First off, hens aren’t vegetarians. They are supposed to eat bugs, worms etc. And if they are spending any time outside, they hopefully will do so.
The vegetarian fed label came about because in a lot of factory farms, they were grinding up dead chickens and mixing it into the fed. If you see “Vegetarian Fed” that means they don’t do that. It doesn’t tell you whether or not they also get to eat bugs.
“Non-GMO Project Verified”
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization that works to correctly label products that do not contain any genetically modified ingredients. If you see this seal it means the company allows “ongoing testing of all at-risk ingredients,” that the ingredients tested fall below “0.9%” GMO,” and that they conform to “rigorous traceability and segregation practices to ensure ingredient integrity through to the finished project.”
Also if this is something that’s important for you, they also have a free app so you can look up all of their verified brands and products while shopping.
“Certified Humane – Raised and Handled”
This label is from the Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), a non-profit certification organization. They have a HUGE list of regulations, including free access to feed and water, facility design, sufficient freedom of movement, stocking density and records of space allowance, air quality and ventilation, perches and nesting boxes, etc etc
If you want to read the full list, it’s all available on their website.
But the part that I was interested in is their regulations for “free range” since Nature Fed said they were. According to the HFAC, they must have “ground covered by living vegetation,” with a minimum amount of “2 sq ft per hen” and “access at least 6 hours per day during the daytime.”
3. Vital Farms Brown Eggs – $6.99/dozen
I bought these because everything I read online says pasture-raised is the best. These are also the most expensive which is why I only bought 1/2 dozen instead of a full dozen.
Pasture-raised means these chickens live outdoors. According to the Vital Farms website, “our hens live every day and spend all their time [outside], foraging, dust-bathing, just doing regular chicken things.” And because of that “they’ll eat just about anything they find out in the fields – grasses, weeds, bugs and worms.”
Given by the Department of Agriculture, this normally means the hens are given organic fed (Non-GMO), they must have access to the outdoors, they are not giving antibiotics (unless there is a serious outbreak) and they are not given drugs to induce molting.
“Certified Humane – Raised and Handled”
The Vital Farms also had this label. Means the same as above although they use the regulations for “pasture-raised” instead of “free-range.”
On to the experiment. According to the internet, the quality of the egg can be seen from the color of the egg yolk. The darker the color, the more rich in vitamins and minerals.
So I cracked open each egg in a white bowl and brought them into natural light. As you can see, the lower left egg is the Dutch Farms egg. Not surprisingly it is significantly paler than the other two.
However the bottom right and the top egg are virtually indistinguishable. The bottom right is the Nature Fed and the top is the Vital Farms.
Next I slid each egg into the pan. Once again you can see that the left egg (Dutch Farms) is paler than the other two. But you can also see that the Nature Fed and Vital Farm egg yolks are thicker and more stable.
As for the taste difference? Well I can’t really tell you that one. I thought they all tasted the same. After cooking all of them together, I cooked each one by one separately. To be honest, I just couldn’t taste a difference.
Conclusion: Are Pasture-Raised Eggs worth the money?
Well, after my test, I decided that it was not worth shelling out $6.99/dozen eggs, once or twice per week. (Shelling, get it? Eggs? Ha). I could not tell a difference at all between the pasture-raised Vital Farms and free-range Nature Fed. They both are certified non-GMO and they both have outdoor access.
But it is worth paying the few dollars extra for the cage-free eggs. Not only are the yolks significantly darker and thicker than the cheap Dutch Farms eggs, but I know from researching on their website that their labels actually mean what I want them to mean. Also any company that tries to sway me with their crap “All Natural” label and aligns itself with a corrupt trade group does not deserve my money (even if it is only a few dollars).
The next time you’re at the grocery store, take a look at the labels on a few brands of eggs you think you can afford. Go home and look each company up. Just because they say “Cage-Free” or “Vegetarian-Fed” doesn’t always mean quality. So it’s always good to do your own research.
As a side note both the Nature Fed and Vital Farm eggs came from Whole Foods, which I know is not available to everyone. So if you would like me to test a few other egg brands from another store let me know.
So what about you guys? Which brands do you typically buy? And how much do you spend on a dozen eggs.