Eggs are one of the best foods we can eat. But there is a big difference between a ‘real’ egg and an egg purchased in a supermarket.

The best eggs are pasture raised eggs (also called pastured eggs). Pasture refers to natural green fields, where the chickens are free to eat bugs, grass, etc., and enjoy fresh air and lots of sunshine. Chickens that live this way produce much healthier eggs: Compared to supermarket eggs, organic pastured eggs have…

  • 70% more vitamin A
  • At least four times as much omega-3 fatty acids
  • Three times as much vitamin E
  • Seven times as much beta carotene
  • 50% more folic acid
  • 70% more vitamin B12
  • Four to six times more vitamin D
  • More zinc, calcium, boron, etc.

This list is longer, but those are most of the key nutrients. In addition, pastured eggs should always be organic, and thus they do not contain many of the toxins and undesired things found in supermarket eggs:

  • No pesticides
  • No herbicides
  • No antibiotics
  • No steroids or hormones
  • No GMOs

Guidance for Checking Egg Quality and Freshness:

1. Pastured egg yolks will be orange. Conventional (supermarket) eggs yolks will be yellow. If the yolk is orange, we know the chicken probably ate a natural diet because the high levels of nutrients make the yolk orange. The darker the orange, the more nutrition. (Sadly, many farmers feed the chickens special flowers like marigolds, or other special foods to color the yolks without increasing total nutrition. If it is truly healthy, it will also have a strong shell.)

2. Pastured egg yolks have greater integrity – they will stand taller in the frying pan, look more spherical, and are more difficult to break. Like the shells, the yolks are stronger.

3. To check for freshness, put the egg in a pot or bowl of cold water:

  • If it sinks to the bottom and lies on its side, it’s fresh.
  • If it stands up, it’s about 1-2 weeks old.
  • If it floats, it’s an old egg.

4. Fresh hard boiled eggs are hard to peel, because the whites are pressed against the shell. Older eggs peel more easily because the yolk and egg white have started to dry and shrink, pulling away from the shell. Thus, you might want to boil eggs that are a week or two old.

5. Pastured eggs will have shells that are thicker and stronger than conventional eggs. The shells do not break so easily.

In Japan…

Ueseful Japanese Vocabulary for Eggs

In Japan they do not use the word ‘pastured’ but they do have other ways to explain the types of eggs and chickens. Perhaps the best pastured eggs in Japan would be called:

放し飼い 特定飼育卵 (Hanashigai tokutei shiiku tamago)

  • Hanashigai means that for most of the day the birds have access to the outside – but density of the birds is not specified in this wording.
  • Tokutei shiiku tamago / specially raised eggs – means that from when the chickens were 120 days old, they are guaranteed to have been kept in a condition no more restrictive than 5 birds per square meter.

Other vocabulary used in the Japanese egg industry:

  • 平飼い: Hiragai – chickens are not caged but might be indoors without enough space.
  • のびのび: Nobinobi – relaxed and carefree, often used to emphasize the lifestyle.
  • 自然: Shizen – natural. Not very meaningful to describe eggs or chickens.
  • オーガニック: Oganikku – Organic. Not certified, but can be better than certified organic.
  • JAS 認定: Nintei – Use of the JAS green leaf symbol – certified organic.
  • JA 全農たまご: Zennou tamago – Usually caged hens. Not good.
  • 有機栽培: Yuukisaibai – organic farming methods.
  • 有機卵: Yuukitamago – organic egg.
  • 鶏舎内: Keisshanai – inside the coop. Not good.
  • パック日: Pakkuhi – day the eggs were packed into cartons.
  • 採卵日: Sairanbi – day the eggs were harvested.
  • 国産: Kokusan – domestic.
  • 自由に歩き回る: Jiyuuni aruki mawaru – walk around freely.
  • 生食用: Namashoku you – for eating raw.
  • 生: Nama – raw.
  • 低温殺菌: Teion sakkin – pasteurized. Not pastured! This means heat treated. Not good.
  • 卵白: Ranpaku – egg white.
  • 卵黄: Ranou – egg yolk.
  • 賞味期限: Shoumi kigen – best before date.
  • 有精卵: Yuuseiran – fertilized eggs.
  • 無精卵: Museiran – unfertilized eggs.