Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I get pretty excited about farm-fresh eggs from pastured chickens. These are eggs that come from chickens who live outside, eat green grass, and are not injected with any hormones, stimulants or antibiotics. They soak up sunshine daily, get exercise as they roam around the grass, and are happy (as happy as a chicken can be, at least). The eggs from pastured chickens are higher in essential fatty acids, lower in cholesterol, and contain more nutrients than regular eggs. Eggs from factory-farmed chickens are of a lower quality when it comes to nutrients, and on top of that they contain more bacteria because of the poor living conditions of the chickens. To get a refresher on eggs, go here.
A few days ago, one PWN reader commented on how expensive eggs from grass-fed chickens are compared to regular eggs. This is definitely true! My pastured chicken eggs cost $4.25 per dozen, and I know you can get regular eggs for as low as $0.99 per dozen in some places. This reader was wondering if the quality of the pastured chicken eggs and regular eggs are similar once you hard-boil the egg. In other words, does cooking an egg kill off any bad bacteria associated with factory farming, to the point that it doesn’t matter where the egg comes from?
Chicken meat and eggs are the most common source of food bacteria. Factory farmed chickens are kept in sheds of up to 100,000 chickens, and they are manipulated with light, food and injections to lay extra eggs each day. Cooking an egg can kill off the bacteria that can lead to food poisoning, but only if the egg is cooked thoroughly. Sunny-side up, soft-boiled, or any type of runny yolk is not considered an egg that is cooked through. Therefore, there is still a chance that some bacteria will remain. An egg that is hard-boiled with a hardened yolk will likely have no harmful bacteria.
However, the nutrients are still lower in a factory-farmed egg than in an egg from a pastured chicken. So while you may be avoiding salmonella or E. coli, you are still consuming an egg that is higher in cholesterol and lower in essential fats and vitamins. Some suggestions for getting the most out of your eggs while still staying within your grocery budget include saving the inexpensive factory-farmed eggs for hard-boiling; using pastured chicken eggs for other types of cooking; and doing some research to find a local farm that can supply you high quality eggs at a competitive price.