Conventional egg-production agriculture (also known as confined animal feeding operation or CAFO) raises hens indoors and in cages. This has raised concerns about animal welfare, environmental damage, and nutritional impacts.
Egg-laying hens confined to cages do not have space to move or stretch, and they show more fearful behavior and become prone to skeletal problems. Large numbers of animals confined in small spaces also pollute the air, water and soil with the vast amounts of manure they produce.
Free-range, egg-producing hens must be given access to the outdoors, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. However, many large commercial egg producers get away with giving their hens access to a tiny, covered outdoor area while still giving the hens conventional feed. The feed is a crucial component, as the main ingredients of commercially raised hens' diets are genetically engineered (GE) soy and corn. Commercial eggs, even if they state "free-range" on their label, will typically fall into this category.
True free-range eggs are from hens that range freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. Typically, you will find these eggs at a local farm or farmers market.
In addition to being better from an environmental perspective, free-range eggs are also nutritionally superior, as demonstrated in Mother Earth News' 2007 egg testing project. Compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
|1/3 less cholesterol||2/3 more vitamin A||3 times more vitamin E|
|1/4 less saturated fat||2 times more omega-3 fats||7 times more beta carotene|
Free range eggs are truly an ideal food; it's not only one of best proteins you can get, it's also one of the least expensive. And nearly everyone can tolerate eating them regularly. They're at their very best if eaten raw. But in order to safely eat them raw, they MUST be organic and free range. CAFO produced eggs are typically not safe to eat raw due to the unsanitary conditions the hens are kept in and far higher likelihood that the hens are infected with pathogenic organisms.
The way you cook your eggs can destroy the nutrients. The closer to its raw state the egg is, the better, so ideally, you'll want to eat them raw or soft boiled. The egg white is typically what causes most of the objections to the texture of raw egg, so feel free to throw away the egg white, or simply blend the whole raw egg into a smoothie. Personally, I eat just the raw egg yolk—four every morning, purchased from a local farmer.
Personally, I remove the whites because it's just too much protein for my challenged kidneys which were damaged years ago from improperly removed amalgam fillings. If you have normal kidney function that eating the whole egg raw is fine. Consuming raw egg whites tends to only be a problem if you avoid the yolks which have biotin that the avidin in raw egg whites removes.
Scrambling your eggs is one of the worst ways to eat eggs as it oxidizes the cholesterol in the yolk. If you have high cholesterol this may be problematic, as the oxidized cholesterol may cause damage in your body. Best to avoid scrambled eggs like the plague, probably better for most to fast than to eat them.
Many mistakenly believe eggs are bad for your heart due to their cholesterol content. This is a serious misconception, as your body actually needs cholesterol, and artificially driving your cholesterol levels down is likely doing far more harm than good. Every cell in your body needs cholesterol. It helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol also helps in the formation of memories and is vital for your neurological function. In other words, dietary cholesterol is your friend, not your enemy.
Your best source for fresh eggs is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. You can tell the eggs are free range by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you're getting eggs form caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.