Five Years Plus

{May 23, 2010}   What Came First?

What came first?

A friend recently asked me for advice about how to begin eating more local foods. Using local eggs is a great place to start. When we buy eggs from the supermarket, there is no telling where the eggs came from, how old they are, how the chickens were raised or what they were fed. “Does any of that matter?” you may ask. “After all, I only eat one or two eggs a week.” Read on and you’ll discover just how much it matters and how much you might be missing out on.

Let’s start with why it’s important to buy local eggs. Supermarket eggs generally travel a long way from the chicken farm to the shelf. The “sell by” date on the egg carton can be up to 45 days from the pack date, so let’s just say these eggs are not “fresh”. Conventionally (as opposed to organically) raised chickens have likely been fed animal by-products, had antibiotics administered and may even have ingested arsenic[1]. That stuff gets into the eggs and gets into you when you eat the supermarket eggs.

Conventional "cage-free" chickens. Photo by Larry Rana

The best eggs come from chickens that have space to roam outdoors (pastured poultry) and eat a diet of grasses, worms and bugs plus additional whole foods like vegetables, corn, oats and flax. The yolks from chickens that have been pasture raised will be golden yellow. Beware though, if you plan to hard-boil the eggs make sure they are at least a week old or you will face a nightmare when trying to peel them.

At this time of year you will find an abundance of local eggs for sale at farmer’s markets. Here you can feel free to ask the farmer directly about the chicken and the egg. You can ask how the chickens are raised, what they eat and whether they are given any antibiotics, and when the eggs were laid and how they were washed. Even if the farmer is not USDA Certified Organic, you can get a feel for the farmer and decide for yourself if you want to buy. If you are concerned that local eggs might not be cleaned sufficiently, you can wash them yourself in a bath of hydrogen-peroxide or Clorox (sodium hypchlorite – breaks down into salt and water)[2].

Here in Cazenovia we are fortunate to buy eggs directly from Lucky Moon Farm who produce vegetables, flowers, maple syrup and eggs. In the summer we are members of their vegetable CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – whereby we subscribe and receive a share of the crop) and have eggs delivered each week with our veggies. During the winter months I drive to the farm to pick up my eggs and always enjoy a small glimpse of farm-life. For some period each winter the hens take a rest. Sometimes local eggs continue to be available from another farm that supplies our local-foods restaurant.

I visited Lucky Moon Farm today to take some pictures of the roaming chickens. The twenty or so chickens were congregated around some fresh spinach which had come from the bed that the farmers were busy weeding. They come in and out of the barn at will and range into a fenced field beyond to eat grass or insects. We were treated to a viewing of the week old multi-colored chicks; not much bigger than an egg themselves, they will be laying their own eggs by December!

Pastured chickens at Lucky Moon Farm

Now here’s the thing about local farm-fresh organic pasture-raised eggs – my goodness are they delicious! They are so delicious you will want to eat them all the time, which is fine since eggs are no longer thought to have a significant impact on blood cholesterol[3]. By the way, am I the only one who grew up with egg-phobia, thinking I could only eat a couple of eggs per week?

Around the time I was born eggs began to get a bad rap as being high in cholesterol and linked to heart disease.  Occasionally my mother would make bacon and eggs, but apart from baking, eggs were generally saved for special occasions. She had two special egg dishes – her famous four inch high fluffy omelet which only she could successfully make, and “huskies in a snowdrift” (hotdogs embedded in a crispy eggs-terior). So most mornings, I made the hot cereal my conscientious mother prepared for breakfast palatable by drowning it in milk and brown sugar.

Imbued with a fear of eggs and cholesterol, I followed my mother’s lead and used eggs in a limited way. Cholesterol was supposed to be a killer by causing heart disease and eating eggs was thought to lead to high cholesterol. Isn’t it great that it isn’t so? Numerous studies have determined that eating one or two eggs per day has no impact on blood cholesterol or the risk of heart disease. There is debate as to whether even cholesterol in the blood is really the bad guy it is made out to be. Yet even so, some people still think whole eggs are an unhealthy food. The American Heart Association recommends eating the whites only since most of the fat and all of the cholesterol are contained in the yolk. Cholesterol paranoia is so ingrained that many people either discard the yolks or purchase egg whites in a box.

Most foods are most eggs-cellent eaten in their whole form and in fact, throwing out the yolk may be literally throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The yolk contains 1/3 of the protein and nearly all of the abundant amount of vitamins and minerals found in the egg. One whole large egg provides 6 grams of protein and is high in important vitamins and minerals such as riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium.

In 2003 I began to follow a system of eating outlined by Ann Louise Gittleman. She describes the egg as “one of nature’s most nutritious creations” and recommends eating up to two eggs per day[4]. I was delighted! I began to experiment with eating vegetable omelets for breakfast and eventually settled on regularly using eggs as my protein source at lunch. I like fried eggs, particularly the yolk. Sometimes I follow my childhood practice of eating the runny yolk separately with a small spoon, savoring the yellow liquid without surrendering even one drop to the plate. Another favorite is my version of eggs-salad: simply place two lightly fried eggs directly on top of a salad, pierce the yellow yolk and allow it to permeate through.

So enjoy your eggs.  Not only is the egg a healthy, delicious, protein-rich and relatively inegg-spensive food, it is also one of the easiest foods to obtain locally.

[1] Alexandra Zissu, The Conscious Kitchen (2010) New York: Clarkson Potter, pg.57

[2] Ann Louise Gittleman, Fat Flush Foods (2004) New York: McGraw Hill, pg. 136

[3] Consumer reports, January 2008, An eggs-planation.

[4] Ann Louise Gittleman, Fat Flush Foods (2004) New York: McGraw Hill, pg. 25


This is a great post with so much interesting data about eggs. For example, I’ve been buying eggs from a local farm for a couple of years but had no idea that I should wait a week before I hard boil them! I’m also a fan of Ann Louise Gittleman and while I haven’t been following her diet recently, I was part of the original online community that she worked with when launching fat flush. Thanks for the informative post.

Lindsay says:

This is great to hear! I’ve always felt my love for eggs might cause my health harm so I strictly allow only 5 eggs per week. WELL NOT ANYMORE! LOL! I will have to try your version of eggs salad. Thanks Gyata.

Gyata says:

Hooray for eggs!
Here is one of my all time favorite recipes. It makes a kind of mayonaise dressing. I like to mix it with hard-boiled eggs or use it as the mayonaise in devilled eggs. It’s from one of the Moosewood Cookbooks.
Ceasar Salad Dressing
2 hard boiled eggs
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 tsp mustard
salt & pepper
Blend together until smooth. Keeps about 1 week in the fridge.

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