Eggs 101 and why a vegan eats them
WHY I EAT EGGS
I have been vegan for two and a half years, but I started eating eggs less than a year ago. I started eating eggs for a few reasons but mostly because my Doctor at Parsley Health highly recommended it. Not because I lacked protein, but because they're beneficial to your brain, filled with essential amino acids, B12, health fats and SO ON.
Even so, I didn't want to eat eggs at all. So in my reluctance, I grounded myself in why I didn't eat them in the first place and figured out how I could justify eating them again.
Why I STILL CONSIDER MYSELF vegan
One of the biggest obstacles when deciding to eat eggs was that I knew I couldn't call myself vegan anymore. What was I going to be? Plant-based?
The reality is, I was never truly vegan. I have leather purses, down comforters, a Canada Goose for goodness sake. Then I remembered when I first became vegan people loved to remind me of that: "you can't say vegan if you have a leather bag." To which I said, "I can actually because nobody said being vegan means you have to be perfect."
This is all to say that I still consider myself a vegan because 99% of the time I am. Now, back to eggs.
THE SHORT STORY ON EGGS
The start of mass egg consumption
In the mid-20th century, farmers started bringing their hens indoors to create a more efficient process using battery cages. They started producing so many eggs that the price of eggs went down dramatically and consumers bought in.
Mass production came at a price for the hens though—Stuck in battery cages on top of each other, inhumanly treated, their beaks burned off, pumped with hormones—all to keep up with the demand for cheap eggs. Eventually animal-rights activist took their concerns about this mainstream and consumers were shocked. Thus, cage-free eggs were invented.
Cage-free, but not cruelty-free:
This shift was hard on farmers who would now have to invest money they didn't have in new facilities. So they did what they had to, they changed the story for consumers without changing the life for the hens. Cage-free was exactly the same setup, just without the cages. Here are other ways battery caged and cage-free hens are the same from the Humane Society:
- Both systems typically buy their hens from hatcheries that kill the male chicks upon hatching—more than 200 million each year in the United States alone.
- Both cage and cage-free hens have part of their beaks burned off, a painful mutilation.
- Both cage and cage-free hens are typically slaughtered at less than two years old, far less than half their normal lifespan. They are often transported long distances to slaughter plants with no food or water.
- While the vast majority of the battery and cage-free egg industry no longer uses starvation to force molt the birds, there are battery and cage-free producers alike who still use this practice.
Cage-free vs. Battery Cages. (Photos from the Humane Society.)
It was progress, but not enough.
Ok, so free-range then!!
Animal rights activist caught on the cage-free loop whole and demanded more, but finically, the farmers were stuck. So free-range became another attempt at changing perception without changing the reality. The only difference between cage-free and free-range hens is that free-range get an outdoor area. But that outdoor area has no regulations or requirements. So, more likely than not, your free-range hens are hardly free-range.
Since farmers were trying to keep up with the demand for a more humanly raised egg, but without the funds or support to do so, there was a natural next step. A new step.
Pasture-raised, locally sourced.
The mass-producing egg farmers were in too deep, with too much debt and an inability to keep up with demands. So a small percentage of consumers looked else-where: local farms. Going to a farmers market to talk face to face with the people handling these hens and buying eggs they trust. But like I said, a small percentage, making this not a viable business plan for the masses.
This is where Pasture-raised comes in, a story for consumers grounded in reality. Take Vital Farm eggs for example:
"Pasture-raised eggs are simply the best eggs that you can find: Laid by hens that get to spend their days outside on fresh pastures – not cooped up in small cages or huddled by the thousands in cage-free barns. The eggs are simply better in every way. They taste better. They look better. They’re better for you. And the hens that lay them live happy, healthy lives as close to natural as is possible for domesticated animals".
A bigger conversations that's often left out when talking about battery cages, cage-free and free-range is that those eggs lack all the nutrition that makes egg great in the first place!! Vital Farm eggs breaks it down below.
In comparison to a conventional egg, pasture-raised eggs 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
I'm sure you can guess which eggs I choose to eat and why. Of course, nothing is perfect, but for now, Pasture raised is the best option. Happy egg learning!