Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Dream of Chickens

I want chickens.  I want to hear them cluck and watch them run around the backyard, feathers flying and everything.  They're not cuddly and they stink, but I want something only they can give me - eggs.  Fresh eggs every day.  We eat a LOT of eggs in this house, especially we now eat the Paleo way.  I can't keep enough eggs in the refrigerator these days.  I think my husband may turn into one.  You are what you eat, right?

But, alas, my HOA and Harris County does not allow for backyard chickens (although there is a rebel in the neighborhood next door  - I hear suspicious clucking sounds coming from his house when the kids and I are at the park).

Having backyard chickens that are allowed to roam and eat grass and insects to their hearts desire is very beneficial to our health as egg consumers.  The eggs are (almost) free.  And, more importantly, the eggs are simply better for you.  I never knew the difference in egg quality between cage-raised hens and free-range hens until recently and I was stunned at the difference.  Sure, they cost more at the super market, but I just don't feel comfortable supporting industries that care more about money than they do about the quality of food and the treatment of animals.  Why should you pay the extra dollar or two?  If you care about the condition of the animals, that's one reason.  If that doesn't tug your heart strings, then maybe this will convince you:

Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. That’s the conclusion we have reached following completion of the 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project. Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:

• 1/3 less cholesterol 
• 1/4 less saturated fat 
• 2/3 more vitamin A 
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E 
• 7 times more beta carotene

Read more at Mother Earth News.

Why the difference in nutritional value?  It all comes down to how the chickens are raised.  Most commercial chicken houses fill their walls to the brim with as many feathered friends as they can squeeze in.  These cluckers don't get much (if any) sunlight and many of them cannot even walk due to the growth hormones they are being fed.  The lack of sunlight causes them to produce eggs with a low amount of vitamin D.  Plus, free-range chickens eat the kind of foods that God intended them to eat.

"True free-range birds eat a chicken’s natural diet — all kinds of seeds, green plants, insects and worms, usually along with grain or laying mash. Factory farm birds never even see the outdoors, let alone get to forage for their natural diet. Instead they are fed the cheapest possible mixture of corn, soy and/or cottonseed meals, with all kinds of additives." - Mother Earth News

This makes sense. The same principle is applies to people, too.  Eat good nutritious foods and you'll be healthy.  Eat junky sugar- and carb-filled processed foods and you won't be healthy.  Have you ever seen the documentary called "Supersize Me" by Morgan Spurlock?  If you haven't, you should.  In the documentary, Morgan puts himself on a strict diet of McDonald's for 30 days.  The results were nothing short of astounding.  He started out as an overall healthy person and ended up with so many health issues that even his doctors were concerned about his condition.  

Why should we expect anything different from animals?
If you live in the Houston area, check out Yonder Way Farms.  They raise grass-fed meats and free-range eggs and everything we've purchased from them has been absolutely delicious!  Plus, I love supporting family-owned local farms.
Maybe someday I'll have my own chickens.  When I do, I'll blog about it for sure :o)

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