The Beauty of Farm-Fresh Eggs and How to Source Them

Written by Diana Bauman.

The word ‘egg’, all alone, makes me happy. When I hear it, thoughts run through my head of fried eggs with potatoes, mayonnaise, a rich custard or a Spanish tortilla omelet…. If there was a food that I simply couldn’t live without, it would have to be eggs.

Although I love eggs for the diverse range of foods that they help make, my favorite thing about eggs is that they are a traditional source of complete protein and nutrition. This couldn’t be more true than in the Spring.  Spring is the season for pastured, farm fresh eggs.

Yes, eggs are available year round from the farm or grocery store, however, as the buds start to bloom, grasses start to grow and microbial bugs and earthworms start to proliferate, pastured chickens enjoy their buffet.  With this buffet comes more vitamins and nutrients.  In the Springtime, eggs are at their nutritional peak.


ALL photos by Diana Bauman.

Eggs contain several important nutrients

  • Choline – particularly important for brain function and health.  Egg yolks are the richest form of choline. (More than 90% of Americans are choline-deficient.  This is a concern for pregnant woman as choline is necessary for brain and memory development in the fetus.  While I was pregnant, in my third trimester, I ate 2 eggs a day.)
  • Selenium – A mineral that is a powerful antioxidant and that our bodies need for a strong immune system.
  • Folate – Helps in the prevention of birth defects
  • Other B Vitamins – converts foods you eat into energy
  • Lutein – found in the yolk, protects against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts
  • Vitamin A – important for night vision, healthy skin and bone tissue
  • Vitamin E -prevents cell damage by inhibiting oxidation of lipids (fats) and the formation of free radicals (helps to prevent cancer).

Eggs are nutrient dense  but unfortunately, not all eggs are the same

Since the industrialization of our food system, it has become apparent that not all eggs contain the same amount of nutrients.  Mother Earth News, The Original Guide to Living Wisely, has shared study after study comparing the nutrients in pastured eggs versus conventional, grocery store eggs.

Compared to conventional store eggs, pastured, free range eggs have:

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • Two times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • Three times more vitamin E
  • Seven times more beta carotene – converts to vitamin A
  • most recently noted, 4-6 times more vitamin D

Knowing this, it becomes very important to buy eggs from a local source.

You may be thinking, “I buy organic, free-range eggs from the grocery store”.  This is a great start, however, with the demand of “organic” and “naturally” raised products, more companies are jumping on board to sell you what you want.

This is great.  Our demand of good nourishing food is being met.  However, many standards are truly not what you may expect.

In order for eggs to be labeled “free-range” a chicken needs to have access to the outdoors.  This usually means hundreds of chicken confined to an industrial chicken house with a small slab of concrete to walk outdoors if they’d like.

Your “free-range egg” chickens are really spending their lives indoors in a ventilated area and will not have the nutrient levels as described above.  If you’re buying “vegetarian-fed eggs”, this is a sure sign that they do not have access to pasture as real chickens are not vegetarians.

Chickens live and thrive on a variety of worms and bugs outdoors which only a pasture can provide.

As you can see, it is critically important to buy local eggs.  If you need to find a source for local, pastured free-range eggs, visit your farmer’s market or visit www.localharvest.org, a great website to find family farmers in your surrounding area.

Or, if you’re like me, raise your own.

Raising Backyard Chickens

Coming from a Spanish family, we eat a lot of eggs.  Not just for breakfast but fried up and served on the side for lunch, boiled in salads and sprinkled over chicken, fried over picadillo, scrambled into tapas of tortilla Espanola, baked into nourishing crema Catalan and even eaten raw.

I feed my children a raw egg yolk mixed in with a tablespoon of honey and served as a sweet, traditional dessert.  I grew up eating this as did my mother and I’m sure the generations before her did as well.


Since my family eats raw egg yolks, it was very important to me to find a local source of pastured free-range eggs.  For a couple of years I was buying from a local family farmer who pastured his chickens on five acres of land. After visiting his farm I became quite captivated by the beauty and simplicity of chickens and we decided to raise our own in our backyard city lot.

I can’t imagine my backyard without my girls or my farm fresh eggs waiting for me every morning.  The simple act of raising your own chickens brings you to the very essence of the miracle of food and helps you understand the importance of raising livestock sustainably.

Not to mention, the kids love them.

Tips to get you started on raising your own chickens

  • Make sure there are no city ordinances against chickens and let your neighbors know about your plans.  If there are any concerns, share some eggs ;)
  • To get you started, I would suggest one chicken per family member plus one.  Since 1 chicken will average 5 eggs a week, this will ensure you get at least 2 dozen eggs a week.  This is generally the amount of eggs my family goes through in one week.
  • Before you purchase your chickens, make sure you buy them suitable to your climate.  Visit My Pet Chicken’s Breed Selector to select the best breed of chicken for you.
  • Build a chicken coop.  This is the fun part.  You can build a variety of different kinds of coops.  Again, make sure they are built suitable to your climate.  In my area we get freezing weather during the winter time.  We have an open area allowing condensation to escape in order to prevent frost bite.
  • To get you started on raising your baby chicks to grown laying hens, visit the best online chicken website and forum, www.backyardchickens.com.

It’s no wonder that eggs are one of the healthiest and most scrumptious foods that you can eat.  I encourage you to take advantage of farm fresh, seasonal eggs and find a local source (or raise your own chickens) this spring to nourish your family.

Have you found a local source for farm-fresh eggs? What are your favorite recipes to make with farm-fresh eggs?

About Diana

As a first generation American, Diana shares her family’s traditional Spanish and Mexican recipes at her blog, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. As a mami and urban homesteader she also writes about her faith, family, organic gardening, raising backyard chickens and preserving the harvest.

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Comments

  1. I grew up with farm fresh eggs given to us by our own chickens. It was a great experience and there is no way to even come close to comparing them to store bought eggs!

  2. I seriously want my own chickens, but I think it will have to wait until we’re back in Texas. Only a few more years..
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies’s last post: Fresh Flour Tortillas

  3. Eggs from chickens who get to to peck and scratch outside are better! Just a small correction – eggs in the summer are just as nutritionally sound as eggs in the spring. As long as the chickens have access to greens the nutritional profile of the egg is improved. Even eggs in the winter are very good for you – my hens are fed kitchen scraps and greens year round (along with laying hen pellets). Not everyone can purchase eggs from pastured or backyard hens. In that case, the next best choice is to get the “vegetarian fed,” simply because the other option are the eggs from chickens fed on meat by-products, chemicals and cheap grains. If you’re thinking of getting backyard hens, you can watch mine and see what it’s like on my live-streaming web cam at http://www.HenCam.com.

    • Terry, thanks for the comment :D Yes, when you’re raising your hens on pasture they are indeed full of nutrients all year, however, Spring grasses and weeds are at their optimal when growing in the cooler weather that they need and have more access to “water.” All of our pastured animals are rich in nutrients during this time :D I do feel that more people need to realize that we can have access to locally raised eggs. Visit localharvest.org and type in your area, you’ll be surprised at how many farmers are out there raising pastured eggs. Also, another good place to look into is Craigslist.

      I necessarily would not recommend eggs from vegetarian raised eggs. These eggs will be higher in GMO raised grains and have a higher ratio of omega 6 fatty acids. An unbalance in omega 6 – omega 3 is not desirable. If you’re interested I’ve written a post that goes into this a bit.

      http://www.spain-in-iowa.com/2010/04/is-real-saturated-fat-good-for-you-yes/

      If anything, I would probably go with organically raised eggs as the feed will be GMO free. But really… visit your local farmers market, or a health food store which will probably carry locally raised eggs. Of course visit localharvest.org.
      Diana’s last post: Huevo Con Miel- Raw Egg Yolk with Honey

  4. There is nothing like a fresh egg! Up until very recently, my mother kept chickens for both eggs and meat. It was a lot of fun (except for occassional raccoon or weasel visits).
    Mark’s last post: Aw Nuts!

  5. Diana, where was this post when I was desperately looking for more egg recipes? My hens are going crazy with the spring light. And that’s the real reason for getting farm-fresh eggs in the spring – there are lots of them! With the increased light, the hens start laying more heavily.

    I will be checking over your blog and recipes as soon as I can.
    One more advantage of raising chickens – tick control. We haven’t had problems with ticks in our yard since having a hen-patrol on hand.

    Chickens are wonderful to raise and relatively easy. Fascinating – lots of learning ops for kids!
    Sarah Clachar’s last post: Thinking 101- Put Down The Book And Step Away From The Screen

  6. I first tasted farm fresh eggs while on vacation in upstate NY one summer. There’s nothing quite like them. Thanks for the links. Maybe I’ll find a local source to enjoy these year round at home.
    Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger)’s last post: Snap Peas and Eat Live Be Week 15

  7. We get our eggs from a family in our church, I believe they give them the run of the garden. The eggs are delicious! The only thing I don’t like about them is having to wash them before using them. :P
    Tammy’s last post: UFO Bust Report

  8. Oh wow. I knew farm fresh were better because they had lower cholesterol, but I didn’t know about all of the other vitamins/minerals/etc.! Maybe I’ll be able to meet a farmer who does eggs at the market. Until then, I suppose I can dream of the future when I could raise my own chickens. :D

  9. Kate Sanderson says:

    If you are in Canada you can get similar information at http://www.localharvest.ca

  10. Hi Diana, I really enjoy your recipes!
    I have one question about eggs that I hope you can help me with. I have a friend who raises chickens, but she uses commercial feed and has them in a pen (no access to the yard or free-ranging). I am trying to encourage her to allow them more access, but it is taking time. So my thinking is that these eggs from her chickens are maybe a little better than store-bought, but not as healthy as pastured. Do you agree with that? I want to support her efforts…but I feel like she fell short of the purpose of having her own, healthier eggs. What do you think?

    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for the comment. You know, this is a difficult question to answer. Of course without any access to grass, weeds and bugs the eggs will not have the level of nutrients that an egg from a pastured hen will have. However, do the chickens have enough room to move around? Do they have access to sunlight? In order to raise chickens in a confined area, they do need at least 2 square feet of room per chicken. If they do have this amount of space and sunlight they will be stress free and can still have a good amount of Vitamin D. If you supplement with kitchen scraps and during the Spring and summer feed them extra weeds that you pull and give them grass clippings, they will most definitely be better than battery caged confined chicken eggs from the grocery store.

      At any rate, I would still encourage your neighbor to give them free access to the lawn for a good 2 hours a day. This alone can make a huge difference in the quality of the eggs.

      Being in the city, it’s definitely difficult to give them complete free access. I do with mine, however, I clean up poop ALL the time!! These are things you need to keep in consideration when raising urban chickens.

      I hope that helped :D
      Diana’s last post: Huevo Con Miel- Raw Egg Yolk with Honey

      • A good way to let them out for a short amount of time is to let them out in the evening before they roost. If they roost at 9 p.m., let them out at 7 for two hours. It may be an obvious tip, but it took me a while to learn that once you let them out, they won’t go back in until they want to, lol. This way we all win. :)
        Vicki Arnold’s last post: Photographing Lightning is Fun!

  11. Diana: great article!
    I grew up with chicken in our backyard (in Italy) growing up… it was so great to go with a basket and pick the eggs up, and then when the chicken was old we’d make the BEST ever chicken soup. I have not decided yet if I will raise chicken. Still thinking of the time management factor…
    Amelia from Z Tasty Life’s last post: Spaghettini with bottarga mullet roe- fennel seeds- capers- and garlic

  12. I once heard someone talk on the different seasonal recipes using eggs. I wish I would have paid closer attention to what he said. Are you aware of egg recipes that would be more appropriate for certain seasons of the year?

  13. I’m embarass to admit, but I never knew any of this. I never knew how much more nutrient rich they are. My son and I love eggs and now I’m so going to seek some out!

    • Naomi, don’t be embarrassed! Most people have no clue either. It’s not like the commercial chicken farmers exactly boast about it. :)

      We hope to get our chickens this spring!

    • Hey,
      There are old recipes out there that speak to using different seasons of eggs in different amounts. For example, the spring eggs are richer and bigger and therefore you need less of them in a cake/sauce than the winter eggs. As you get to know your eggs you will be able to adjust your recipes…. unless of course you are making boxed food. But of course you are not interested in making boxed food or you wouldn’t have visited this wonderful site.
      You most likely will not find these recipes unless you have very old cookbooks. I have only ever seen 2, but my grandmother taught me the rules. But more importantly, we need to learn to cook by sight, feel, and taste, and by using farm fresh eggs we can trust we won’t get sick by trying the batter :)
      And just in case my egg man Zach comes here, Zach we love your girls…please up production!

  14. We’re converting part of our barn into a chicken coop this summer so that we can get chickens next spring. I can’t wait!

  15. While I don’t think we’ll be getting chickens anytime soon, unfortunately, I love that our eggs come from a coworker of my husband’s who has surplus. When we head to our farmers market in the warm months, and it is only very rarely that we rely on organic eggs from a grocer.

    Thanks for the informative post!
    Shaina’s last post: Spring Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Artichokes

  16. We raised pasture chickens growing up. We had up to 400 at one time. I guess my view is tainted now. I loved to watch the chickens run around the grass. However, thanks to bugs and other things in the soil, the health of the chickens was not so stable. We also had varmints like raccoons and mink get into the coop or pasture and kill the poor birds. I raised a few chickens on our farm once I got married, but the cost of feeding and losing the birds to health or varmints made it not manageable.

    I visited very large egg farmers who use cages here in Indiana and after seeing the health of the birds and comparing the actual amount of nutrient differences in the eggs, I now buy my eggs at Kroger. It was the best decision for my conscious. They are locally raised by family farms here in Indiana. Actually 100% of the eggs in Kroger come from Indiana family farm raised chickens.
    Leah @ Beyer Beware’s last post: French Martinis and Friends

  17. Your son has very handsome eyes with looong eyelashes. Very cute!

  18. We love real eggs! We get ours from local friends who raise their own backyard chickens. If they’re out, we just go without and use egg replacements in recipes. The taste, color, everything is just so superior, and we know that it’s from chickens who were raised humanely. Once you have the real thing, those pale, watered down eggs are never okay again. :)
    Magic and Mayhem’s last post: Attachment Parenting 101- How do I defend my AP practices in a custody battle

  19. Great information! I’m so excited that my CSA is going to be offering farm-fresh eggs this year. I can’t wait!!

  20. I miss having chickens and fresh eggs! We had a small hobby farm, but sold it and moved from the country to the suburbs. Bittersweet. Store bought eggs just don’t compare. :)

  21. What a great post.
    I just bought some chicks a few days ago. As a part of our getting ready, I picked up a copy of Raising Chickens by Ashley English and have found it helpful.

  22. We have had chickens for years and when we first got them, I refused to eat the eggs. When I finally got up the nerve to try them, I LOVED them and that is all I want now. There have been a few times when our ladies aren’t laying well and I have had to buy eggs from the store. Boy can you tell a difference!
    Thanks for sharing your info about the benefits of local free range chicken eggs. I am going to be sharing this post with my readers also. Have a great day and be blessed!
    Christie Jarvis’s last post: Palm Sunday Weekend Celebration

  23. I was raised on farm eggs. We always had chickens, ate their eggs, *any extra roosters that were hatched too :P.

    There really is NOTHING better than a farm fresh egg. It is the simplest thing, but oh so delicious. If I could I would only eat fresh baked bread, french butter, and farm fresh eggs. It would be heaven.
    Leanna @ Raptortoe’s last post: Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits

  24. Another great thing about having your own chickens – I love nothing more than hearing my girls announce they’ve laid an egg!

  25. I wonder about the “pastured eggs” that I see in the grocery store. I live in an urban environment, and cannot always make it to the farmers market early enough to get eggs (they sell out so quickly.)

    So, do items like “Nature’s Yoke Pastured Eggs” qualify as pastured, with all the benefits and nutrients? I know they are not as fresh, and they do taste better than “cage free.” I would just like to know if they are worth my extra money.
    AmandaLP’s last post: I think I need a moment

  26. I was in a hurry this last week and bought my eggs at the grocery. I paid $4 to get 12 organic free range eggs. They were some of the most disapointing eggs I’ve eaten in a long time. The yolk broke when I cracked the eggs and it was a pale yellow. Obviously these eggs were old and anemic. I’ve learned my lesson. Eggs from the co-op are cheaper ($3/doz), fresher and a deep golden yellow.

  27. Hi Diana,
    Could you link me to the source for your nutrient information? I’m trying to find specifically “farm/pasture fresh eggs vs. store eggs”…
    Thanks!

  28. Lucy Anderson says:

    Dianne, last year we were given three laying egg chickens by a neighbor who told us we should not wash the eggs because it allows bacteria to penetrate the eggs. I disagree with that analogy and wash our eggs. Have you heard of this? What do you think?

  29. Lucy,
    From the little bit I know, eggs should not be washed until you are almost ready to eat them. They will keep a`while in the fridge washed, but they will keep much longer unwashed. I don’t remember the exact lengths of time; you might want to look it up. I guess you would be best off leaving them unwashed til you use them, just like produce.

  30. I experimented with some (very expensive) store-bought “organic” eggs this morning… underwhelming. Sure nothing like the ones my family used to raise, and, more recently, I’ve gotten from friends with their own coops.

    Here’s one of my all-time favorite family recipes…

    http://hautemealzblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/nanas-chili-egg-puff-2/

    Enjoy!

    -Perry

  31. Really Great Post! I was looking around for a great resource that talks about the difference in eggs. This is really super great!
    cat @ NeoHomesteading.com’s last post: Real Food Resources & Recipes (A Glance at My "budget.")

  32. My wife and I just built a chicken coop. 16 by16 feet with 8by 8 feet enclosed for nesting and roosting. I have been told that it is a good idea to keep oyster shell available for my chickens.Any thoughts on this matter?

  33. I first became enamored of home-grown chicken eggs when my best friend started raising chickens in her backyard. I couldn’t believe how dark and beautiful in color the yolks were compared to store-bought, and the flavor! I could taste the onion grass the chickens liked to peck away at.

    I have plenty of room here at my home in Maine to raise chickens, but I still find myself supporting the local farms for my eggs instead – I’m nervous about the amount of work involved in keeping our own chickens. I have a feeling, though, I’ll be giving in within the year.

    Thanks for the great info and blog!
    Dory Diaz’s last post: Finding Happy

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