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side-by-side eggs: home raised and store-bought

 
Ann Torrence
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The hens laid an egg after several weeks on vacation. We had finally run out of eggs from the fall and had had to buy a couple dozen for holiday baking. So I had the rare opportunity to photograph them side by side for my blog. I'll spare you all my rant, just show the picture. You can read it on the blog if you want.

The store bought ones were labeled "all natural, vegetarian fed, 10 times more vitamin E, no hormones or antibiotics." My hens haven't wanted out of the hoop house in more than a week, since the big snow, so who knows where the color is coming from. Maybe a few spiders in the litter and some table scraps? Wonder how long the dietary carotenoids last in their reproductive systems. If you took one of my hens and fed them commercial crap, how long until the egg on the left would match the one on the right?
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Luke Groce
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looks gorgeous.

I've definitely had two hens in the wintertime under identical conditions lay on the same day two eggs that looked that different. I'm guessing that one was a go-getter wintertime forager/kitchen scraps/bugs eater and the other one liked to camp out next to the feeder. But I'm not sure as to your question about how long it would take for them to turn pale yellow.
 
John Saltveit
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You can taste the difference in flavor and texture when they're grown right. You can't necessarily taste it when they just say all that pretty stuff.
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Joseph Lofthouse
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I got eggs from two different growers at the farmer's market last summer. The dark orange egg was grown on a farm that I have visited. I saw the chickens roaming freely across the farm.

 
pete ah
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Most people have never had an egg from a well fed chicken...... enjoy. You made me hungry with your post. 😉
 
jimmy gallop
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That is why I grow greens in the winter they love them.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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As to the question, how long would it take for the free range egg to look like the commercial feed egg, I have been told; less than one week.

I have a friend that is a commercial chicken man, he eats his personal free range birds eggs and I asked this question,
since I knew he had once fed his own birds the commercial feed after they had been free ranging for all their life up to that point.
He said his flocks eggs were looking like the birds in the big houses eggs within 5 days.
I was not there so I can not verify, but I do trust him to tell me the straight up answers when I ask them.
 
John Saltveit
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That's very useful information Bryant. I know many people have complained that it's not worth it to grow your own chickens, because the cost is the same. But it's not the same.
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Dale Hodgins
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The look and texture of naturally raised duck eggs is also very different. Whether making oven cakes or pancakes, firm eggs make the batter better.
 
Our Jersey cow produced milk which was far different from the waterey liquid produced by our neighbor's commercial Holstein herd. Butter from the Jersey, never made the batter bitter.
 
Roger Taylor
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:As to the question, how long would it take for the free range egg to look like the commercial feed egg, I have been told; less than one week.

I have a friend that is a commercial chicken man, he eats his personal free range birds eggs and I asked this question,
since I knew he had once fed his own birds the commercial feed after they had been free ranging for all their life up to that point.
He said his flocks eggs were looking like the birds in the big houses eggs within 5 days.
I was not there so I can not verify, but I do trust him to tell me the straight up answers when I ask them.

I have unfenced, free ranging chickens, which are fed commercial feed meal as a base, and forage for the rest. The eggs are dark and do not resemble store-bought ones. The reason I decided to do this was because I encountered someone in a local forum who was known and well respected. They provided details and links to research which showed the right balance of vitamins and minerals and the difference it made to the attributes of the egg produced.

Now, I know there's a romantic notion that an animal should be able to fend for itself, and this will give the best result. But logically that depends on the environment being suitable, and the presence of the sufficient obtainable amounts of the right vitamins and minerals in that environment.

The colour of the yolk is merely one appealing factor, it isn't a proven measure that minimal standards of non-visible quality has been reached. Although of course, it is possible for chickens to be getting sufficient nutrients solely from their environment, but that anyone can prove it compared to assuming it because it meets the romantically envisioned scenario, is another matter.
 
Peter Ellis
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Roger, everyone chooses what, and whom, they wish to believe. I believe it is entirely possible to understand what nutrition an animal requires and see to it that they are provided appropriately without resorting to commercial feed and that belief has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with an awareness of how unconcerned with my welfare are the corporations making that feed.
 
John Saltveit
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There have been some studies that have measured the differences. I don't have them with me right now, but if you just think about the enzymes and microbiology and the diversity of food it makes sense. Also the flavor just blows away the Industrial model eggs. That much is obvious, although I will say that some of the free range eggs are more amazing than others, possibly depending on how old, or how much food they have instead of industrial food.
John S
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Roger Taylor
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Peter Ellis wrote:Roger, everyone chooses what, and whom, they wish to believe. I believe it is entirely possible to understand what nutrition an animal requires and see to it that they are provided appropriately without resorting to commercial feed and that belief has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with an awareness of how unconcerned with my welfare are the corporations making that feed.


Bryant's anecdote did not provide any evidence that the farmer was providing supplementary feed. And what you will notice is that there are a lot of people on this forum who talk about providing for their chickens, but few references to scientific research of giving chickens the nutrients they need. What do you base your understanding of the nutrition you choose on? Or are you just talking theoretically?
 
Roger Taylor
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John Saltveit wrote:There have been some studies that have measured the differences. I don't have them with me right now, but if you just think about the enzymes and microbiology and the diversity of food it makes sense. Also the flavor just blows away the Industrial model eggs. That much is obvious, although I will say that some of the free range eggs are more amazing than others, possibly depending on how old, or how much food they have instead of industrial food.

John, I think it is worthwhile to gather these studies in order to get the specific facts about what was involved in those cases. But as it stands, that they exist does not in any way validate that it will work for anyone who tries it. After all, we all live in different locations with different foraging resources available to the free ranging chickens.

I think it would be valuable for all the worthwhile studies to be gathered, and then we could work out in what situations someone could be comfortable with knowing they were doing their best based off the known facts, not what they choose to believe. Yes, it's nice if the eggs are darker and more flavourful. People buy my eggs for that reason. But I want the additional comfort of knowing that when the chickens are formulating the eggs, they get the nutrients they need from their feed (whether pure free range because it is certain that it is available there and that the chickens are actually eating it or supplemented by palatable options), rather than drawing what they can from their own bodies and living with deficiency. That a free ranged bird looks better than some worst case mangy industrial debeaked cage bird kept in the dark serving as an egg factory, doesn't mean that it's getting the levels of nutrition it needs.
 
Peter Ellis
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I am going to repeat myself, because it seems to be needed. Eveyone chooses what they want to believe. "Known facts" included. Differing sources provide differing opinions as to what the facts are. Scientific studies are not unanimous in their findings and one must consider the sources of such studies in determinig what weight to give them.

I expect that were I to make a modest effort I could find studies showing that x brand of chicken feed used in Tyson chicken houses provides one hundred percent of a chicken's nutritional requirements. I am not persuaded by that sort of information.

I also do not believe that it requires a scientific study to establish working guidelines for everything. Direct observation can serve quite sufficiently.
 
Roger Taylor
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Peter Ellis wrote:I also do not believe that it requires a scientific study to establish working guidelines for everything.

I also do not believe that it requires a scientific study to establish working guidelines for everything. I wonder who does?

You're welcome to believe what you want to. I'm just trying to highlight another way which doesn't necessarily require commercial feed. I'm not pushing commercial feed, just because I mention and use it. Most of our lives are conducted by "if it looks good, it's good enough" including my own. Who has time to do otherwise? I hope you do not feel like my posts were directed at you personally, and a direct insistence you change your approach.
 
Dale Hodgins
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When chickens are free to run around and forage for their own food,  there is no need for us to know the exact constituents of their diet.  They are able to choose a wide variety of plants and animals,  to eat a balanced diet.

They are able to be largely self-sufficient in all but the harshest environments.  That's why they the most prolific farm animals on earth.

If we know that the environment lacks a certain mineral, this can be added to feed or it can be provided in the form of gizzard stones.
 
Jd Gonzalez
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Here is summary of a study on nutritional values of eggs.

"Egg samples were collected at 50, 62, and 74 weeks of age during the productive life of the flock and sent to four different laboratories commonly used for egg nutrient analysis. The results showed no influence of housing environment (range or cage) on egg levels of vitamin A or vitamin E. However, β-carotene levels were higher in the range eggs, which, according to Dr. Anderson, may have contributed to the darker colored yolks observed in these eggs during the study. The study also found no difference in cholesterol content between range- and cage-produced eggs."

It did find that range eggs has a higher content of fat, but not a higher cholesterol level.

However, nutritional values aside, what would be the most ethical way to raise poultry? I lean toward free range.

http://www.poultryscience.org/pr081511.asp?autotry=true&ULnotkn=true

I was raised in the city but spent weekends and summers at my grandmother's coffee farm. I remember not liking the free range fried eggs because of the color and "strong" taste as compared to the commercial eggs I was used to in the city.

Grandma, resorted to scrambled eggs with grated gouda cheese and I devoured them!
These were truly free range hens fed a few handfuls cracked corn once every other day just to keep them close to the house and their roost. They fended for themselves in the coffee farm foraging among bananas, plantains, taro, yams, ice cream bean trees, breadfruits, avocadoes and guavas. I guess grandma was a permie before the word was used.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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poultry feed ingredient study This may help some folks in this thread. I have looked at my local feed store for something to use as a treat for my chickens and settled upon meal worms and a purina calcinated chicken treat. Since my commercial grower friend raises the "house birds for Tyson Foods, which provides the birds as chicks, the food to raise them with all the nutrient additives, all the grower has to do is keep watch over the thousand birds until the trucks come to get them and bring the new batch. I know that the feed the company provides contains Arsenic, which is used to prevent internal parasites. I don't have any desire to add that to my own diet.

I think it is up to each individual to decide what works best for them. I also believe that it is the current mode of food production, in every type of food production, that is mostly responsible for the current state of the general health of people. While there are many contributing factors, I believe that when people go back to a diet of non mass production techniques, their overall health improves as well as their immune system. I use my own body as my example for my decisions in the methods I use to put food on my table, as should everyone. There is something wrong with the infrastructure when we see new diseases popping up all over, an increase in body failure to prevent illness, and huge increases in the number of patients with depression, ADD, and chronic health issues. It is also suspect to me when doctors continue to treat a symptom instead of trying to locate the cause and correct that, so that the patient they are treating actually gets well. Year before last I had a Femoral Artery Bypass, it failed. The doctor went back in to "fix the problem" and that procedure failed. After accumulating over 5k in medical debt I changed to an herbalist, now I am almost fully recovered with out the help of the "modern medicine", so my decision to go back to the old ways was right for me.

Everyone is an individual, therefor it is up to each person to arrive at their own conclusions and then act accordingly.

Long ago I chose the path of the good red road. I act accordingly to the requirements of that path, I work hard to not let anything that could be detrimental to my body enter it. That is me and only me, and I recognize that no one else should follow my path, nor should I chastise anyone for following their own path along the road of life.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Peter Ellis wrote: that belief has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with an awareness of how unconcerned with my welfare are the corporations making that feed.


They seek to make something that looks enough like an egg, that most people will buy it. Nutrition of the birds and eggs is only important in preserving the quantity produced. Quality of life for the bird and quality of food for the consumer, is of minor concern and only useful for advertising purposes.


 
Kelly Smith
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Hi Ann,
Last year, we had a customer compare our eggs to the most expensive store bought eggs.
Kelly Smith wrote:
the left is a organic cage free / free range egg from the store, the right is our egg. organic (no soy) free range, secured at night/parts of snowy winter.




 
Ann Torrence
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Jd Gonzalez wrote:Here is summary of a study on nutritional values of eggs.

"Egg samples were collected at 50, 62, and 74 weeks of age during the productive life of the flock and sent to four different laboratories commonly used for egg nutrient analysis. The results showed no influence of housing environment (range or cage) on egg levels of vitamin A or vitamin E. However, β-carotene levels were higher in the range eggs, which, according to Dr. Anderson, may have contributed to the darker colored yolks observed in these eggs during the study. The study also found no difference in cholesterol content between range- and cage-produced eggs."

It did find that range eggs has a higher content of fat, but not a higher cholesterol level.

http://www.poultryscience.org/pr081511.asp?autotry=true&ULnotkn=true


Interesting. It completely contradicts the nutritional analysis that Mother Earth News commissioned in 2007. I wonder about the quality of the pasture that they used in the academic study, and how much conventional feed was provided. Here's the only info on the methdology in the Poultry Science Association news release cited above:

"Dr. Anderson conducted his study in North Carolina using more than 400 Hy-Line Brown pullets. The pullets were raised in accordance with the laying environment (range or cage) in the 37th NCLP&MT. All of the pullets in the study were hatch mates. Identical rearing dietary programs were used for both the range and cage pullets, with the only difference being the access the former group had to the range paddock, a common hay mixture for North Carolina comprising both warm- and cool-season forages.

Pullets designated for the range facilities were brooded on litter until 12 weeks of age and then moved to a range environment. At 17 weeks, they were then moved to one of three production range paddocks. A parallel pattern was followed for the cage hens, which were reared in a cage rearing facility, and then at 17 weeks assigned to one of three groups of laying cages. All other rearing parameters were maintained as similar as possible."


Wondering what does "access" mean in this study, I went hunting for the original academic paper: "Comparison of fatty acid, cholesterol, and vitamin A and E composition in eggs from hens housed in conventional cage and range production facilities" because the devil is in the details! I found it, but first I found a later paper by the same author, which gives an idea of the methodology: "A comparative examination of rearing parameters and layer production performance for brown egg-type pullets grown for either free-range or cage production." Both studies were done at an agricultureal extension research facility using their standard "rearing protocol" In the later study, he is more specific about what that means. Assuming that the methodology didn't change for both studies is reasonable based on the fact they are doing other longitudinal work, but not certain.

Does it make a difference in ability to free range for nutrition if your beak is trimmed? "...beak trimming, which was done on all birds at 6 to 10 d. Beak trimming began at 6 d of age using a Lyons Pre- cision beak trimmer with a 7/64-in. guide hole [10]. The trim was a block cut with an approximate blade temperature of 1,100°F (dull red). Beak trimming was completed in less than 3 d." (2012 JApplPoultRes 21:95:102.) I don't believe you can fairly assess the ability of chickens with trimmed beaks to forage for insect protein sources. Maybe someone should do that study first.

Or the density on the range? "Range density was based on a 500 hen/ acre (500 hen/0.405 ha) static equivalency of 8.04 m2/hen (12,462.0 in.2/hen)." (2012 JApplPoultRes 21:95:102.) For how long without moving them? Doesn't say. Anyone think stocking them at that rate on a single parcel for over a year would be a reasonable comparison to true free range?

And then it matters, apparently, what lab did the egg analysis: "The laboratory had a significant effect on the levels of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and β-carotene (Table 5)." (2011 Poultry Science 90 :1600–1608 ). This appears to be an argument to refute the Mother Earth News study in particular.

And who paid for it? I find it surprising that there is no acknowledgement of the funding source for the study. Even if the senior author runs the test facility, extra lab tests aren't free, neither are grad student assistants. Maybe it's in the slop in his budget. Now, I've only been associated with Neuroscience, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Environmental Engineering and a few other technical disciplines where funding disclosure is absolutely mandatory, so I don't know about agricultural academic standard practices, but it does leave the question open: what's the scientist's agenda? When Purina Animal Nutrition has a board member on the association foundation promoting your conclusions (news releases are promotion, I assert), I would think you would want to be more than forthcoming about funding if you wanted to maintain an appearance of academic objectivity, if you were in the science game.

Rather than stopping at the news release from a poultry association, I suggest everyone read both papers and draw one's own conclusions.

ETA: clean up the colors, add the last sentence in the penultimate paragraph and for clarity of pronoun.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Most likely that the poultry industry funded this study, in which case, the term free range means the chicken could get up on its legs and move enough to turn around, not that it had enough room to actually forage for some of its food. Pasture in an academic sense would mirror the grass used in the industry as well, caged means the chicken has just enough room to sit still, no movement allowed. Range environment would mean the industry standard; a chicken would have approximately 3 times the space of a caged bird. Free range in the commercial poultry world means a space of 3' by 4' is able to be accessed by a bird, the space does not move in any way, shape or form. Free range does not mean the chicken forages.

This is what the USDA considers the definition of "Free Range": The USDA allows for any chicken raised with access to the outdoors to be labeled “free-range”. Nowhere does it state that the chickens have to actually go outdoors; ACCESS is the only legal binding verbiage of that rule. They may still be raised in the same overpopulated poultry house type production and be labeled “free-range”. Furthermore, farmers can charge more for their “free-range” product.

Certified organic chickens may also be raised like this. A trailer full of chickens, raised in coops stacked 3 tiers high on top of one another, can be labeled “free range” as long as there is a door on that confining facility.

USDA Standards for Free Range Eggs: The USDA has NO STANDARDS on free-range eggs and allows egg farmers to freely label any egg as a “free range” egg. This also means that chickens bearing “free-range” eggs have NOT necessarily been fed a better diet than those raised in a factory farm. In other words, the hens may still have been fed the same GMO or animal byproducts as in factory farming.

So, factory eggs from the super market? Or true Farm eggs from the Farmer's Market? Which do you suppose is more healthful to you and for the producing hen?
 
Erin Lemky
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Ann Torrence wrote:If you took one of my hens and fed them commercial crap, how long until the egg on the left would match the one on the right?


Ann, what do you feed your chickens? I'm interested in moving from organic feed from the store to a mixture of in-situ forage and food grown on our farm and then stored for feeding over winter, but it's hard to find out what I should grow. Do you grow your own feed?
 
John Saltveit
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Yet another excellent post, Bryant.

YOu are explaining something vitally important. Sometimes the labels of "organic" and "free-range" are fairly good but not great. IT's better to actually know and visit the farms and see what they do, so you know it's not just fairly bad but not quite as terrible as Confined Animal Feeding Operations, torn off beaks and injected hormones. Rampant anti-biotics.
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Zach Muller
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Part of commercial feed is the marketing that tells people chicken nutrition is really complicated and if you don't use commercial feed than your hens might get sick or be deficient in some way. When I first got chickens I was worried they would not get the right stuff so I used commercial layer feed. I simply did not know any better. It was a discovery process to realize chickens had been laying eggs long before this crap was even invented. Why use it if it's got all the weird stuff I avoid in it.

Now I use non gmo scratch seed mix for any supplemental feed I need. And as dale mentioned, supplying minerals in gizzard stones. The Eggs are beautiful, birds are beautiful, everyone who is used to store bought eggs who tastes my eggs says " oh my god"
Those hens got it dailed in so I worry very little now about their diet.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Our birds get "bird food" just like the wild birds my wife loves to feed, not "chicken food", they free range and when they come into the coop at night they get mealworm treats.
I know some people are not as fortunate as we are in this respect, we have enough land that there is always plenty of chicken preferred greens, bugs and worms for them.
We do use bagged crushed oyster shell but other than that, every part of their diet is as non-treated or non-commercial as possible.
They also get minerals as a free choice portion, but no antibiotics or other things that we consider unhealthy for our flock.

Guineas do the tick control, as this is our biggest issue with the flocks health.
 
Ann Torrence
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Erin Lemky wrote:Ann, what do you feed your chickens? I'm interested in moving from organic feed from the store to a mixture of in-situ forage and food grown on our farm and then stored for feeding over winter, but it's hard to find out what I should grow. Do you grow your own feed?

Right now we have 11 hens. They are getting Scratch & Peck organic layer feed, supplemented by whatever they find. They are fenced into a one acre orchard plot at the moment, with the hope that they will seek and destroy emerging codling moth larvae.

I once saw one catch and eat a foot-long snake. When the grasshoppers are in season, our feed bill drops to nothing. I dumped a foot of leaves in an area we were planning to till for a nursery, and they spent all winter working that over, encouraged on by dumping scraps and the occasional scoop of scratch into the leave. Right now, it's just greening up here and they are foraging all day. They want the feed first thing in the morning and again before night, but I don't see them eating much during the day. There's a lot of alfalfa between the trees, and they will eat that down to the ground as it first comes up, but then they seem to find other stuff.

If I were thinking about growing them more feed, I would start with sunflowers and amaranth and bag the heads. They are easy and don't take a lot of effort to harvest. As an aside, this purchased feed is one reason why we are trialing layer ducks next. And I am growing sunflowers for the geese, who will devour an entire plant down to the stalk and the flowerhead if you offer it to them in the flowering stage. Little monsters.
 
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