Are pasture-raised eggs better for you?
Yes, in every measurable way! The most comprehensive studies to date showed that in comparison to regular factory farmed eggs, pasture-raised eggs have less cholesterol, less saturated fat, more vitamins and omega 3s. In other words, more of the good stuff and less of the not-so-good stuff. Click here to see more details.
Is it OK to eat eggs? How many a day?
Yes! Eggs are one of the best superfoods that you can eat. Back in the 70s there was some concern about cholesterol levels and such, but more up-to-date studies have shown that eggs actually contain a good mix of good and bad cholesterols, and that the protein, vitamins and omega-3 content more than makes up for any possible downsides. We reckon a couple of eggs a day is just about perfect - especially for breakfast, as the healthy dose of high quality protein they give you has been shown to keep you feeling full for much longer than things like cereal or toast.
Can I eat eggs as part of a calorie controlled diet?
Eggs don’t just contain any old proteins - remember, everything inside that perfect little shell would be the building blocks for a new life if the egg was fertilized (which ours aren’t), so the protein and vitamin profile is perfectly balanced. Proteins like choline (great for brain function) and betaine (great for your heart), and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (which protect your eyes) are just some of the great nutrients in eggs. Click here to read a great article about the health benefits.
What else is good about eggs?
Eggs don’t just contain any old proteins - remember, everything inside that perfect little shell would be the building blocks for a new life if the egg was fertilized (which ours aren’t), so the protein and vitamin profile is perfectly balanced. Proteins like Choline (great for brain function) and Betaine (great for your heart), and the carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin (which protect your eyes) are just some of the great nutrients in eggs. Click here to read a great article about health benefits.
Why are your yolks so orange?
Our girls get to eat as much grass as they like, and all that salad is full of all sorts of goodness. What gives the yolks that deep color though is beta-carotene, which is also great for you. In the summer months, when there’s not as much outdoor eating to be had, the yolks may pale a little, but that’s just a normal variation that should be expected from our girls living a truly natural lifestyle.
Why do your eggs taste so good?
The natural goodness that our girls feast on comes through in the way the eggs taste as well. Thick. Rich. Delicious. If you've never eaten a pasture-raised egg, your culinary life may be about to change!
What do your girls eat?
The ladies spend all their days outside, all year long, so a lot of what they eat comes from what they forage out in the pastures. Chickens are natural omnivores, which means that they’ll eat native and seasonal grasses (things like clover, rye, wild onion) as happily as they’ll gulp down a crunchy grasshopper or fat, juicy worm. They need about 4oz. of food a day to keep laying. So while they get a good portion of their daily requirement out in the fields, we make sure to provide them with a supplemental feed to keep them happy, healthy and well fed. The feed is made up of corn and unprocessed organic soybean meal - depending on the particular flock, it may be Certified Organic, NonGMO Project Verified or conventional - but nothing else is added - no hormones or antibiotics.
Is there soy in the their feed?
Yes, the feed does contain unprocessed soymeal. While we appreciate that some people experience a certain sensitivity to soy, or may have health concerns about it, it is still the best source of the essential proteins and amino acids that our girls need to lay. We’ve also had our eggs tested, and they do typically have lower levels of isoflavones than conventional factory eggs.
Do you take hens from factories?
No, sadly we cannot emancipate caged hens! We get all of our ladies as young girls when they are still tiny. Our organic chicks need to be fed certified organic feed from the second day after hatching to meet the organic standards!
What happens to older hens?
Once our girls slow down a bit, we make every effort to find good homes for them - through Craigslist and such - with families who will take good care of them. For those that we can't place, we humanely end their lives, then process and ship them frozen to Africa in 10 kilo boxes, where they can be a great source of food for the families and folks who live in remote villages. We are glad to be able to provide quality food for these families, who otherwise might have no access to quality protein. We value and respect all the lives that are in our care, and feel that this final gift is a fitting end.
What happens to the girls in winter?
Our girls don’t need to fly south for winter, as that’s already where they live! One of the reasons that all our farms are in southern states - from Georgia to California - is so that we can keep the girls out on pasture all year round without needing to knit them little chicken sweaters! We do install extra lighting in the barns to keep the winter blues away as well.
How do you keep your girls safe?
From a very early age, we teach our girls to come indoors before sunset, so at night, when the risk of predation is highest, they’re tucked up safe and sound. We regularly patrol all our farms, and use non-harmful counter-measures to keep aerial predators at bay - simple things like dummy owls are quite amazing!
What kind of hens do you have?
There are a number of commercial egg-laying breeds, but the ones that we have the best results with are called Bovans Browns. We do have some smaller flocks of Amberlinks and Ameraucaunas as well.
Why are the eggs brown?
Little bit of trivia - eggs are colored the same as the earlobes of the hen that lays them, and the longer a hen lays for, the paler her earlobes become! The brown eggs come from the Bovans and Ambers - the Americaunas on the other hand lay beautiful pale blue eggs.
Are your egg laying hens the same as the hens we can eat?
American tastes are such that most people don’t find egg-laying hens tasty enough to eat. So no, our egg laying hens and our broiler (meat) hens are not the same breed.
What’s the difference between all your egg types?
While all our pasture-raised eggs come from flocks of hens enjoying the same living conditions - out on pastures all year long - we do have 3 different egg types: USDA Certified Organic (sold as Vital Farms in Whole Foods and in other retailers as Pasture Verde), NonGMO Project Verified (sold in Whole Foods as Backyard Eggs) and conventional (sold as Texas Chicken Ranch (in HEB stores) and Alfresco Farms in other retailers). The only difference between each of these is in the provenance of the supplemental feed - the Vital Farms / Pasture Verde girls get a USDA Certified Organic feed, the Backyard Eggs girls get a Non GMO Project Verified feed, and the rest get a conventional vegetarian feed. Other than that, they’re just the same.
What is Certified Humane®?
Certified Humane® is considered to be the gold standard in animal welfare certification; they have a Scientific Committee of internationally renowned animal scientists, veterinarians and researchers who set animal care and handling standards for all the major livestock and poultry species raised in the US. Each of our farms must go through an extensive application, inspection and verification process each year to ensure that they meet or exceed all of the Certified Humane® standards for pasture-raised laying hens, and we are proud to carry the Certified Humane® seal on all of our cartons. You can read more about how Certified Humane® laying hen standards compare to other animal welfare certifications, as well as the National Organic Program, on their website.
What is USDA Certified Organic?
All of our organic eggs (Vital Farms & Pasture Verde) have been certified organic to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standards. When you see the organic seal on a carton of eggs, it means those eggs were produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers; the hens were fed a certified organic diet free of animal by-products and antibiotics, and are required to have outdoor access; and the eggs were washed and packed separately from non-organic eggs to prevent contamination. Organic eggs are also inherently non-GMO eggs, since NOP standards prohibit the use of GMOs. As the organic standards focus primarily on agricultural inputs, while the Certified Humane® program is primarily about animal welfare, the two programs complement each other and ensure that we are providing the best, most premium egg on the shelf!
What is Non-GMO Project Verified?
Our Backyard Eggs (sold in Whole Foods Market) are the first Non-GMO Project Verified pasture-raised eggs in the US! As you would expect, Non-GMO Project verification is focused on GMO content of various consumer products. For eggs, this means that they verify our girls are fed a diet that is in compliance with the Non-GMO Project standards for animal feed; they conduct annual inspections of the feed mill where we purchase the ladies’ supplemental feed, and they do traceability audits at our packing facilities to ensure that only non-GMO eggs are packed into the Backyard Eggs carton.
Where can I find your eggs?
You can find our eggs in Whole Foods nationwide, and a huge number of other stores, both Natural and regular. Use our Amazing Egg finder to find the closest to you.
Can you deliver eggs?
If you like your eggs scrambled on arrival - sure! We’re looking at ways to better do this, so keep your eyes open.
Can I eat your eggs raw or uncooked?
While we cannot recommend eating our eggs cooked to anything less that FDA guidelines, plenty of our crew have eaten eggs less than cooked through and have lived to tell the tale!
Do you wash your eggs?
In the US, FDA regulations require that we wash and clean our eggs before we pack them - ostensibly to reduce the risks of contamination from things like salmonella - but washing does remove the eggs natural protective layer (called the ‘cuticle’ or 'bloom'), which is why eggs over here must be kept refrigerated. They do things a little different over in Europe, and here’s an interesting article comparing the two.
What’s the best way to cook your eggs?
Everyone here would probably have a different answer to that! Check out our recipes and cooking tips page to find out who loves what!
How do I know if I’ve waited too long to cook the eggs?
Properly refrigerated, eggs can last a lot longer than you’d expect, but if your eggs have past their best by date, you should be able to tell if they are still good enough to eat by cracking one open. An egg-too-late smells unmistakably sulfurous - so if it don’t smell, then all is swell, but if in doubt, throw it out!
What’s a double yolk?
It’s like a 4 leaf clover, but tastier! You sometimes get double yolks from young flocks that are just beginning to lay – two eggs may merge together in the hen’s oviduct, meaning she'll lay one large egg with two yolks hidden inside.
Why are some eggs different sizes?
Young hens tend to lay smaller eggs, so eggs get bigger with age - in general. Of course, as with any natural product, there is always some variation. We do our best to grade out the eggs so that you only get eggs of a certain size in your cartons.
Do you have roosters?
As we buy our chicks from certified sources, we only get hens. So there are typically no roosters on any of our farms. On the very rare occasion that we do find a rooster, we let him live out his natural life. But before you think that he’s one lucky little fella’, you should know that his is not the quiet life. Hens have a very structured social hierarchy - the term ‘pecking order’ comes from the way hens behave in a flock. If you have solitary rooster in there, he gets to be right at the bottom of that ladder, where he's, quite literally, a hen pecked bachelor!
Do you trim beaks?
We do not de-beak on any of our farms as we consider it both cruel and disruptive (hens cannot feed properly with a mangled beak, which may work for a factory farm, but our girls love to eat outdoors and need their beaks to work!). We do use an infrared beak tipping process when they are one day old, but that's only to reduce the sharpness of their beak hook - if we didn't do that, they could do each other some serious harm. This is painless when we do it (the nerve endings do not grow in until after a week or so), does not affect the hen long term, and to the untrained eye, it’s difficult to tell they’ve had any treatment at all.
Where are your farms?
All our family-owned farms are in southern states - from Georgia to California
How is pasture-raising different from free-range?
Free-range is a term that Big Egg companies like to confuse you with. Done properly, like our friends over at the Happy Egg Company do it, it’s a good intermediate point between cage-free and pasture; their hens get about 11sqft of outdoor space, but they are the exception. While in Europe, the term free-range has a legally binding definition (free access to outdoor areas covered with vegetation, about 43 sq.ft/bird), here in the US it doesn’t. So while some producers may make sure their birds have a reasonable standard of living, many use this term to make the customer feel better while providing their chickens will little meaningful access to the outside, and those areas that are outdoors may be nothing more than concrete yards. If you’re looking at buying free-range eggs, we encourage you to look further at the company. It can be done ethically, but more often than not it isn’t.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Chickens are a curious bunch - they love to forage and explore. Some breeds are more adventurous than others, so we reckon they just wanted to see if there was something good to eat over there!
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The chicken, despite what you may have heard.