Back to Living Real Change

Are eggs from pasture-raised chickens healthier?

Do pasture-raised chickens produce the healthiest eggs? Farmer Greg Hutchins of Heritage Farm says, "yes!" Allow him to explain.

What exactly does "pasture-raised" mean?

Pasture-raised is a term that describes the growth model a farmer uses for raising hens. Pasture-raised chickens sleep in their chicken house at night, but are allowed to roam freely throughout the farm during the day.

Why are eggs from pasture-raised chickens healthier?

"It's a much more natural way of growing chickens," says Hutchins. " They're free to scratch and peck, and they're able to get a lot more natural nutrition from the grass, bugs and worms, rather than from commercial chicken feed."

Research from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences found that compared to eggs from conventionally-raised chickens, eggs from pasture-raised hens had:

  • Double the amount of vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats
  • More than twice the amount of total omega-3 fatty acids
  • Less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids

In addition to the extra nutrients, eggs from small farms are typically fresher because they are produced in small batches and sold quickly, rather than sitting on the grocery store shelf for a few weeks.

The difference between cage-free and pasture-raised eggs

The term "cage-free" indicates chickens are free to roam in fields away from a cage, but this is often not the case.

"In factory farms where you have 35,000 to 40,000 birds in a single house, they throw out a lot of fancy labels like 'cage-free' and other [USDA labels], but the reality is, maybe 3 percent of those birds actually get outside. In most cases, it's concrete - it's not even grass. The stipulation is they have to have access to the outdoors."

Chickens at Heritage Farm, however, wake up in the morning and spend the whole day doing what they want to do without restrictions.

"We let them just be chickens," says Hutchins. "We embrace the chicken-ness of the chicken. Then they're more prone to do what they do naturally, which is lay eggs."

Brown eggs versus white eggs

The color of an egg is primarily determined by the breed of the hen, not the quality of the eggs. For example, leghorn chickens, which lay white eggs, are often used in pasture-raised farming. It's the label that's important, not the color.

"If you crack that egg and put it in a skillet and crack a brown egg and put it in a skillet, you'll see virtually no difference after it's out of the shell," explains Hutchins. "The perception is that brown eggs are always better, but it's not really the color of the shell, it's how the chickens were raised."

For more nutrition tips, click here.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online

Piedmont App

Download the Piedmont Now app

  • Directions
  • Indoor Hospital Navigation
  • Find & Save Physicians
  • Online Scheduling

Download the app today!

Get the Piedmont Now on Google Play Get the Piedmont Now on iTunes App Store