I think my hens may be going into fall moult (the chicken version of menopause, where they temporarily stop laying eggs and go bald), so right now they're free loaders (two of my freeloaders below...)
The new chicks won't start laying for another month yet. At one point we couldn't give enough eggs away, and now the 2 or 3 we're getting a day has me missing these amazing butt nuggets! They make a quick, healthy meal - and the VP of Operations can't get enough of them.
Eggs provide a low cost high quality protein and over a dozen vitamins and minerals - but most of these are in the yolk! When you think about it, that yolk has to provide all the nutrition internally that a chick needs to develop in the shell. An eggcellent source of Vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and B6, as well as iron, zinc and choline. You get folic acid and phosphorus and about half the selenium and protein that you need minimally daily. Don't forget choline, which is particularly important for brain function and health. Some eggs even have the ever important Omega 3 fatty acids (but more on that later).
Eggs are one of the few natural sources of vitamin D that you can eat, and egg yolk is a more bioavailable source of lutein and zeaxanthin - antioxidants that help prevent age-related macular degeneration and resulting blindness.
The Down Low Egg Cholesterol
Eggs are starting to come out of their shell, and becoming again the potential super food that they are* (see below). A study was done that showed that eating 1 egg a day actually reduced the risk of stroke by 12%. There are several studies that suggest that instead of contributing to heart disease, eggs actually lower the risk. Blood cholesterol responds more to the saturated fats found in meat & full fat dairy that it does to cholesterol in egg yolk (and cholesterol is so important to the body, it actually can manufacture it's own! But we need to make sure that the body can flush out excess cholesterol - hello fibre!)
You are what you eat eats
Back to Omega 3 content in eggs. Unless the hens that laid the eggs are fed proper rations (specifically flaxseed), a commercially produced egg contains virtually no omega-3 fatty acids. You're best to choose eggs that come from free-range or organically raised chickens, the difference being that organically raised chickens may not receive any antibiotics and any supplemental feed is organically grown. To obtain fresh greens, free range chickens forage in the barnyard. Lacking natures packaging genius, they couldn't protect some of the more sensitive ingredients from spoiling when feeds were formulated (they need to be stable for transport and storage). To accommodate this commercial consideration, the most easily and health spoilable nutrients were taken out. The easily spoilable EFA's of LA (Omega 6) and LNA (Omega 3) which are present in the natural chicken diet of seeds, grains and greens, were replaced by the more stable, non-essential OA (Omega 9). The results to this change was eggs higher in Omega 9, but lower in Omega 3 and 6; and eggs with the same amount of cholesterol, but less essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) to transport and metabolize it properly in our body. With the 'refinement' of commercial chicken feeds, plant sterols, which reduce the cholesterol content of eggs by up to 35% and are found naturally in all vegetables, were removed from the chickens' diet. Commercial eggs therefore contain more cholesterol that home grown barnyard eggs.
Commercially raised chicken are given processed grains (usually bioengineered corn) sprayed with pesticides. The chickens convert much of the starch in these grains into saturated fat, and ingested pesticides are stored in fat. This pesticide-laden fat ends up in the yolk of the eggs these chickens produce. Free-range and organic eggs are produced by range-fed, happy chickens, whose feed is primarily naturally occurring seeds and insects. Sometimes free-range and organic chickens are fed flaxseed or a special meal enhanced with DHA, which increases the omega 3 content of their eggs.
If you can't raise your own hens (some municipalities allow a few backyard hens, and no, you don't need a rooster to get eggs, only to get babies!), then the next best place you are going to fing eggs is right from the farmer. With the power of the internet, you should be able to find someone who has eggs to sell, that meet your requirements (when I lived in Airdrie, I found my "Egg-Dealer" on Varagesale). Farmers markets as well are a great place to source eggs, and to meet those who raise those happy hens. You have every right to ask the farmer what the hens are being fed, and if they are allowed yard time. Don't expect to be allowed on the farm however, because bio-contamination is a real threat to flocks. For those who were guessing what egg was the best in the above picture? It's the deep orange one on the far left. The deeper the colour of the yolk, the happier, healthier the hen and the better the egg!
Cooking of the egg
Because of the many ways eggs can be cooked, they can become virtually any texture from soft and creamy to firm and formed.
Easter eggs! Double Yolker and One of these things is not like the other!
Some experts suggest that poaching, hard boiling, or soft boiling an egg is the most healthy method of preparing an egg, for this heats the egg at a lower temperature. These methods also keep the fats in the yolks from being oxidized before and during the cooking process. Eggs are important and influential in cooking, as their particular chemical makeup is literally the glue of many important baking reactions, including foaming, coagulation, emulsification and the ability to brown. And I have figured out the way to get even the freshest farm eggs to peel nice when hard boiling them. Take a small pan, and add just enough water that will cover your eggs (don't put the eggs in yet), and add a healthy glug of white vinegar. Boil the water. Once the water is boiling, using a slotted spoon, gently lower the eggs into the pot, and boil without the lid for 3 and a half minutes. Take off the heat, put the lid on and rest for 10. After the 10, plunge into an ice bath until cold, and voila. Easy peel.
Oh, and it's a myth that brown eggs are healthier than white. Different breed hens lay different colour eggs (you can even get blue or greenish tinged eggs from certain "Easter Egger" breeds like the Ameracauna!).
If you're not allergic to these superfoods, get cracking!
The Encyclopeida of Healing Foods, Michael Curry ND, Josephy Pizzorno ND, Lara Pizzorno, MA, LMT - 2005
Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, Udo Erasmus - 1986, 1993
Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD, FAND