While the debate continues about whether free-range chicken eggs are better than grain fed chicken eggs, let me ask one question. Which egg would you prefer?
Of the four eggs pictured, the two pale-yolked eggs are regular grocery store eggs, and the two orange-yolked eggs were laid by a couple of backyard hens named Cocoa and Ginger. Thanks girls.
The eggs produced by backyard chickens have a very hard shell, a rich, orange-colored yolk, and a meaty white. Contrast this with your standard grocery store eggs, which have pale yellow yolks, runny whites, and shells which crack quite easily.
Why are these eggs so different? It all comes down to diet. Chickens are omnivores. A chicken fed a balanced diet including greens, produces an egg with a dark yellow or orange yolk. The color in the yolk comes from a class of substances called carotenoids, which are found in many fruits and vegetables. If carotenoids are good for you, and free-range chicken eggs contain carotenoids… well, I’ll let you do the math.
A chicken doesn’t necessarily have to be free-range in the purist sense of the word to produce a quality egg. Sometimes chickens can not “free-range” due to restrictions in lot size, predators or other reasons, but allowing chickens access to bugs and weeds to nibble will improve the quality of their eggs and make for happier hens.
The overriding factor in producing a quality egg is diet. Chickens fed a balanced diet including a variety of vegetable scraps will produce a delicious egg. A balanced feed of your choice should be made available throughout the day, but trust me, when the day’s treats show up, all bets are off. Chickens may not be the brightest pet you’ll ever own, but they still know what tastes good.