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What Are Pasture-Raised Eggs?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 07/24/2017

Eggs are a perfect food on keto—they’re low in carbohydrates, high in fat, and contain a moderate amount of high-quality protein. 


But not all eggs are created equal. The flavor and nutritional value of an egg are largely determined by what the chicken was fed and how it was raised.


Egg producers sell a wide variety of eggs, making it difficult to confidently choose the best type. Let’s take a look at the different options and see how they stack up!

egg-laying hens

Commercial, free-range, cage-free, and pasture-raised compared


When you’re in the egg aisle at your local supermarket, the countless options may make it difficult to figure out which eggs are the best. Let’s take a look at the options. 


Commercial eggs

Commercial, or conventional, eggs represent the typical white egg you’d find at the grocery store. While these eggs are the cheapest, they are not the healthiest option.


Commercial eggs typically come from hens that are caged and do not have access to pastures or the nutrients they typically get while roaming outside.


Commercial chicken feed contains GMO corn and soy and chemicals like formaldehyde. Not only are these bad for the well-being of hens, but they also affect the taste and nutritional value of the eggs they produce.


Conventional eggs from caged hens contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which are highly inflammatory.


Conventional eggs are sometimes labeled “vegetarian fed” to make them appear healthier—but the chickens are still fed corn and soy.

egg production

Free-range eggs

Free-range eggs may seem like a better option, but the term can be deceiving. Free-range hens are cage-free but may rarely go outside. The term “free-range” just means that the hens have some access to the outside.


Free-range standards do not specifically define what access to the outside means. Outside could mean a tiny door in a barn that the chickens never find. 


Certification programs for free-range eggs are not followed up with an onsite inspection, so you can never be quite sure what’s actually going on with the hens.


Eggs that are certified organic or USDA organic come from free-range hens that were also fed organic chicken feed. Although organic is a better choice, it does not ensure that the hens were pasture-raised.



Cage-free eggs

Cage-free is another deceiving term because it also does not mean that the chickens spent any time outside. Cage-free standards just require that the chickens are not locked in individual cages. 


Many cage-free hens spend 100% of their time in a barn—often in overcrowded conditions. Sometimes third-party certifiers can ensure that the hens’ living conditions are sufficient, but this is not a requirement.

egg cartons

Pasture-raised eggs

Organic pasture-raised eggs are the best quality eggs and the healthiest option. Pasture-raised hens have more space, outdoor access, and the ability to follow their own natural behaviors. 


Pasture-raised chickens eat bugs, worms, grass, and living vegetation and get plenty of fresh air. Coincidentally, they lay the most nutritious eggs.


Free-range and pasture-raised eggs are not the same. Pasture-raised standards are much higher and require that the chickens have significant outdoor space, spend time outside during daylight hours, and have a safe space to go to at night.


You can ensure these standards are followed by looking for eggs that are certified humane by a third-party certifier.


This study compares the nutritional profiles of commercial eggs and pasture-raised eggs. Pasture-raised eggs contain more nutrients and are much higher in omega-3 fatty acids than commercial eggs. They contain double the amount of vitamin E and 38% more vitamin A.


Pasture-raised eggs contain high amounts of carotenoids, which give the egg yolks their pigment


Carotenoids are very important for the health of your eye, prostate, and heart. They protect the eye from things like cataracts and macular degeneration. They’re also important for healthy immune function.


Check out this video to find out some of the key differences between commercial eggs and pasture-raised eggs.

Where to find pasture-raised eggs


Purchasing eggs at a farmer’s market from small family farms may be the most reliable way to find pasture-raised eggs. You can ask farmers exactly what the chickens were fed and how the chickens were raised.


If you have some extra space, you can even raise your own chickens. This allows you full control over what they’re fed and how they’re cared for.


Some grocery stores also carry pasture-raised eggs—just make sure you read the label and avoid terms like “cage-free” and “free-range.”



5 reasons why you should eat eggs 


Not only are fresh eggs delicious, but they have incredible health benefits! Here are six reasons why you should eat pasture-raised eggs.


1. Incredible source of protein

Eggs provide the most bioavailable source of protein. Their protein is better absorbed and utilized by the body than meat, fish, or plant protein. Eggs have a complete amino acid profile and contain 7 grams of protein per egg.


Protein is not just important for muscles—your skin, bones, immune system, enzymes, and metabolic pathways all require sufficient amounts of protein. 


The egg yolk has protein too, so don’t just consume egg whites! When you only consume egg whites, you miss out on all the nutrients and protein in the egg yolk.


2. Rich in choline

Eggs are an excellent source of choline. Choline is an essential nutrient that’s very important for your overall health. It helps prevent a fatty liver and get rid of excess cholesterol. 


Choline is also essential for nerve and brain health—it even helps improve your mood and memory! 


Keep in mind the majority of choline in eggs is within the yolk.


3. Supports ketosis

Eggs contain healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids and virtually no carbohydrates, so they won’t spike insulin. This makes them a perfect food for a Healthy Keto® diet. Eggs are one of the most mentioned foods on our Keto Food List.


Many worry that eggs will raise their cholesterol levels too much, but that’s not true! Eggs increase HDL cholesterol, also known as “good cholesterol.” They contain lecithin, which helps counter bad cholesterol. 


Overall, eggs are excellent for promoting balanced cholesterol levels on keto.


4. Promotes beautiful skin and hair

Eggs are packed full of fat-soluble vitamins and biotin, which support healthy skin and hair

They also contain retinol, the active form of vitamin A. Retinol is important for your skin, eyes, sinuses, and immune system. 


Many plant foods contain beta-carotene, which is the inactive form of vitamin A. The active form of vitamin A in eggs is far more bioavailable.


Vitamin D is another nutrient that’s essential for your healthy skin. Eggs are one of the few food sources that naturally contain vitamin D.


Eggs are an excellent source of vitamin E, which protects the skin from radiation and improves scarring. 


If you want better skin and hair, add more eggs to your diet!


5. Excellent source of energy

Dietary fats are an integral part of the keto diet. In fact, 65% to 75% of your daily calories should come from fat on a keto diet.


Eggs are rich in fat, which helps increase ketone production, cognitive function, mental clarity, and satiety between meals when intermittent fasting. 


Eggs are loaded with B vitamins, including B2, B3, and B12. B vitamins are vital for energy production. 


Eggs are also an excellent source of leucine, potassium, magnesium, iodine, and selenium, which are necessary for muscle recovery, metabolism, and steady energy production.

certified humane organic eggs

Key takeaways


Eggs are one of the best foods to incorporate into your diet. They are rich in fat-soluble vitamins, healthy fats, and essential nutrients like choline.


Commercial eggs typically have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to inflammation. Organic pasture-raised eggs are the healthiest option.



FAQ


1. What are pasture-raised eggs?

Pasture-raised eggs come from hens that live outdoors and eat a species-appropriate diet in an outdoor pasture. Don’t confuse pasture-raised eggs for pasteurized eggs! A “pasteurized” label only indicates the eggs were quickly heated so they take longer to spoil.


2. Are pasture-raised eggs healthier?

Yes! Pasture-raised eggs contain double the amount of vitamin E found in commercial eggs. They also contain 38% more vitamin A.


Pasture-raised eggs have a more balanced fatty-acid profile. They’re higher in omega-3 fatty acids, while commercial eggs are higher in omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation.


3. Is pasture-raised chicken healthier?

Similar to pasture-raised eggs, pasture-raised chicken is a much healthier option. Pasture-raised chickens are able to feed on worms, bugs, grass, and other vegetation. They’re also exposed to a lot more sunlight. Check out this article on the advantages of pasture-raised chicken and eggs. 


4. What’s the difference between organic, free-range, cage-free, and pasture-raised eggs?

Organic eggs come from chickens that were fed organic chicken feed. Free-range eggs come from chickens that have access to the outside, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they spend any time in a pasture.


Cage-free eggs come from hens that aren’t locked into individual cages, but they may still be kept inside a barn. Pasture-raised eggs are the best option because the chickens are able to consume a proper diet outdoors, resulting in more nutritious eggs.


5. Are eggs healthy? 

Yes, pasture-raised eggs are very healthy! They’re an excellent source of healthy fat and the most bioavailable source of protein.


Pasture-raised eggs are packed full of fat-soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and essential nutrients. Make sure to consume both the egg yolk and the egg white for the most nutritional benefits. 


6. Can I eat eggs everyday?

Absolutely. In fact, you should eat eggs every day! Eggs are the highest quality protein available other than human breast milk. Eggs have a complete amino acid profile and contain virtually every nutrient that your body needs.


7. Are organic eggs the same as pasture-raised eggs?

Organic eggs come from chickens that were fed an organic diet. Just because eggs are labeled organic doesn’t mean the hens were raised in a pasture. The healthiest eggs are both organic and pasture-raised. 


8. Can I eat eggs on keto?

Eggs are perfect for a ketogenic diet. They are very low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fat. Eggs will not spike insulin and do a great job of keeping you full and satisfied.

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