By Kirsten Serrano
When you envision seasonal eating in spring, produce like asparagus and strawberries may leap to mind. In fact, most proteins have a season when they are at their best as well and that is certainly the case for eggs. They are nutrition powerhouses that peak in quality in spring and summer if you know what to look for.
Why do eggs have a season? Because a hen needs 14 hours of light to lay eggs. Laying peaks at around 16 hours of light. It’s biology. As days lengthen in spring, biology kicks in and more eggs are laid. Of course, we can provide artificial light, but there is another reason spring eggs are the best. That reason is all about the link between input and output.
Eggs are a standout example of how much input matters when it comes to nutrient-density. We’ve had chickens on our farm for a dozen or so years. As soon as we started collecting our own farm’s eggs, I was blown away by the color of the yolks and the intense flavor. Now, if I eat a commercial egg, I can tell by its taste all the nutrients the hen and I are missing. Flavor and nutrition go hand in hand!
Chickens are omnivores that are treated like herbivores by industrial agriculture. The next time you are in the grocery store, notice the packages of chicken and cartons of eggs that proclaim the chickens have been fed a vegetarian diet. It’s silly. I guess Americans don’t like the idea of chickens eating meat, but chickens sure do. This is a perfect example of how poor food and farm literacy is undermining our health and the health of millions of animals. Hens do eat grains, but they also love to eat grasses and other foliage, plus bugs, worms, caterpillars, rodents, frogs, and even snakes! If they can catch it, they will eat it.
A truly pastured hen lays an entirely different egg than the poor vegetarian-fed hen that never sees the light of day. (By the way, cage free designations on eggs mean nothing. The hen might be better off in a cage.) She is free to roam, select her own food (including protein), and her egg compared to a conventional one.1
It would be great if these flavorful and super-nutritious eggs were the norm, but they are not. Here’s my advice for finding great quality eggs at the grocery store and beyond.
At the grocery store, look for organic, pastured (or free-range), USDA A or AA, stamped with the Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved seal. These eggs are worth the extra money.
Get them from a local farm. Talking to the producer is always the better option and will most likely get you a better product than you will ever see at the store. Getting high-quality local foods is easier than ever. I live smack dab in the middle of nowhere and I can get these eggs delivered to my door once a week.
This option may not work for you, but it is worth considering. Get a few backyard hens. Even if you are in a city, many urban areas are friendly to backyard chickens and they are quite easy to take care of. Two or three chickens can easily provide enough eggs for a family with enough to occasionally share. There are plenty of plug and play structures available to keep them safe and happy.
However you do it, I urge you to choose the better egg. It will nourish you and it’s the right choice for the chicken and the planet.
1 Alterman, Tabitha. “More Great News About Free-Range Eggs | MOTHER EARTH NEWS.” Mother Earth News, 2009, www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/free-range-eggs-zmaz09fmzraw. Accessed 1 Jan. 2020.
-Kirsten Serrano is a nutrition consultant, chef, farmer, food literacy educator and the best-selling author of “Eat to Your Advantage.” You can find out more about her work at SmallWonderFood.com.