One young Catholic family on a Journey towards Intentional and Communal Sustainability. One Artist, one full time Mama and two babies, we'll tell you about all our successes, and failures, as we try to make it in our overly Consumeristic society on just the bare necessities.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eat Your Colors: Eggs

Britt keeps up with the food hippie stuff more than I do, but I have heard from time to time that the new trend in deciding on what type of diet one should be eating is to "eat your colors."

The main intent of this notion is that each color in a food represents a different vitamin or mineral and that by eating a variety of colors you are also consuming a variety of necessary nutrients.

This seems awfully simplistic but as a ceramic artist I am accustomed to the visual cues that certain mineral oxides display in a given clay body or glaze recipe. While these days we order mined or purified forms of minerals (red iron oxide, cobalt, potassium carbonate etc.) from specialty shops, in the initial stages of glazing ceramic objects early peoples had to rely on the naturally occurring mineral deposits found in trace amounts in the materials around them.

In fact, the first glazes weren't even applied to the ceramic objects at all, but rather each object was given a vitreous, glossy surface simply by the ash from the wood used to stoke the fire achieving such high temperatures that it began to melt and left behind trace minerals such as calcium and potassium, which when left to cool, hardened to a glassy finish.

Because of my background in ceramics as well as my identity as a Catholic I have a intimate understanding of the hidden inner essence of things which are often only hinted at by outward appearances.

That being said, the thing which finally convinced me to foot the bill for cage-free eggs wasn't animal rights, wasn't ecology, but rather it was the fact that factory produced eggs have less food in them.

Sure, a dozen cage-free eggs is still 12 eggs as much as a dozen industrial eggs. But within each egg which came from a chicken who was allowed to actually walk around and maybe even scratch around to eat a bug or two there is a substantially larger amount of nutrients.This became most evident to me when I compared a run of the mill, industrial egg to one of the cage-free eggs we purchased. The color difference was striking, the yolk of the industrial egg literally paled in comparison. It was yellow, barely yellow, where as the cage-free egg was what one might call orange.

According to Real Food University , which sites studies from two articles published in Mother Earth News, an egg produced by a pasture raised chicken versus an egg produced in an industrial egg factory contains:
  • 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
  • 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D
Of course, as with all dietary guidelines, understanding vocabulary is half the battle. I mentioned above how we had decided to switch to cage-free eggs over standard industrial eggs. However, after re-watching The Natural History of the Chicken (a splendid and highly entertaining mini-documentary by the way) I saw a scene of a huge industrial barn swarming with chickens and lamented the practice to which Britt said, "yea, well that's technically cage-free."

Sure enough, the rolling lush green hills littered with frolicking chickens which I had imagined was an utter fantasy compared to the actual practice of cage-free egg production. Now, don't' get me wrong, when given the option between a cage of chickens huddled unhealthily close together who are never allowed to walk around or even touch solid ground and the crowd of chickens I saw milling around the floor of the vast barn complex, I'd gladly choose the latter, however its still not quite the ideal I had in mind.

In comes Val, our new Transylvanian Naked Neck, and her lovely large brown eggs. Because we were saving some to give to the priests who serve our parish we actually had yet to eat any of Val's eggs until this morning. Charlotte eagerly helped crack them and was excited to make breakfast with me, however we only had two of Val's eggs to the third egg I added to the skillet was one of the cage-free eggs we had bought. The difference was stunning, in fact I had flashbacks to the day we compared industrial eggs to cage-free eggs. The difference was so stark that while our typical breakfast conversation is Charlotte asking for more "yellow egg" (yolk) today she was asking for another bite of "orange egg."

I'll give you 1 guess as to which 2 are Val's
Why are Val's eggs so much deeper in color? Because not only is Val not confined to a tiny cage, not only is she allowed to walk around and scratch up the dirt to eat bugs and rocks (both of which have a wide array of mineral contributions to her diet) but she also gets to see the light of day. Whether you care about humane animal practices, if you care about your food you'll quickly realize that a happy chicken, is a productive chicken, in both the quality and quantity of her eggs.

I can only imagine what it would be like to compare Val's egg to an industrial egg, it would be like seeing a yolk's ghost.

Moral of the story? Don't just eat your colors. Eat vivid, deep, rich colors, because there's more food in there than their pale counterparts.


  1. Loved reading this post. Thanks for the recommendation for the documentary, I've already watched it and learned some interesting things.

    Starting to gather my thoughts and getting a bit closer to making the jump to our own chickens and fresh eggs!

    Peace be with you,

  2. Shannon, the idea of raising chickens seems daunting, because we live in a culture and community which relegates raising your own food to "what poor people do" or something like that. Since we've had Val its been surprisingly easy and hands off. By the time the 5 chicks are old enough we to lay we should be getting 4-5 eggs/day which is pretty exciting.

  3. You guys inspired me to start getting eggs from my coworker who has 18 chickens. So excited to start using them! I love pretty, brown eggs!

  4. Megan, just wait till our aracauna starts laying eggs, her's will be blue.

  5. That's awesome! I can't wait to see the pictures!!!