Raising chickens in your backyard looks totally different than raising commercial laying chickens. The difference in the chicken’s environment and lifestyle makes a huge difference in the nutritional value, taste and color of their eggs.
Backyard chickens are often allowed to forage for food. Their diet is composed of more plants, seeds, berries and insects. Even chickens that spend a large amount of time in the coop are exposed to the occasional treat or wandering insect. Backyard chickens also have exposure to sunlight, which can affect the nutritional quality of eggs as well.
The rich diet consumed by backyard birds allows their bodies to put more nutritional value into their eggs. Eggs from backyard chickens consistently have:
- Lower amounts of bad cholesterol
- Less saturated fat
- Higher amounts of vitamins A,D and E
- More omega-3 fatty acids
- More beta carotene
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to proper health. Backyard chickens can put more omega-3 fatty acids into the eggs because their diet is rich in sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Bugs and plants contain omega-3 fatty acids. Commercial layer hens don’t have access to these and cannot put as much omega-3 fatty acids into their eggs. Chickens that spend a lot of time outdoors and in sunlight produce more vitamin D, which allows them to put that excess vitamin D into their eggs. Many people suffer from vitamin D deficiencies and aren’t even aware of it.
Taste and Appearance
There are some mixed opinions about the taste of farm-raised eggs. Some people claim that the taste of eggs from backyard chickens is more pronounced and richer. However, according to blind studies performed by the USDA, there is not a detectable difference in the flavor of store-bought eggs and farm-raised eggs. There is a definite difference in the appearance of backyard eggs and store-bought eggs.
Farm raised eggs often have a thicker shell than store eggs. Backyard chickens have more access to calcium than commercial layers, so they often put more calcium into the shell, making it thicker and tougher. The yolk of farm eggs is firmer, fuller and darker in color. Store bought egg yolks can be pale yellow in color. Farm eggs tend to have yolks that are dark yellow or orange in color. You’ll also notice a difference in the consistency of the egg white. Store-bought eggs have runnier whites than eggs from backyard birds. The whites in backyard eggs are firmer and not as runny; they tend to hold their shape much better than eggs from commercial hens.
There is also a difference in knowing how your hens were treated and what went into the production of your farm eggs. It’s satisfying to know that your hens are happy and healthy. It’s also satisfying to know that you are consuming a product that is often cheaper and superior to what you could purchase in a store.