Chances are, you have shopped for eggs at your local grocer and noticed the sheer number of poultry eggs marked as vegetarian fed.
Over the last few years, more and more eggs are being branded as vegetarian fed – there are also a myriad of other varieties including organic, pasture raised, free range, the list goes on and on.
We pick up our eggs from our local CSA, where our eggs come from a farm that raises chickens on pasture. These chickens raised on pasture get to be like themselves… I’m not a chicken, nor do I know how they think or feel, but my best guess is that they love to be themselves – chickens that get to run around on pasture and eat worms, frogs, snakes and insects.
That is, in fact, their natural diet. Rich in protein. Rich in vitamin D from the sun. Overall healthy, happy animals.
Chickens that are permitted to be chickens are not vegetarians.. not only do they eat nuts and seeds, they also eat worms, frogs, snakes and insects..
Looking at a label that says “Vegetarian fed” is usually a good indicator that a chicken is not a pasture raised product – but is indeed an industrial operation. It’s also quite ironic too – given that a true pastured raised chicken will be free to roam outside and eat their natural diet – how can they be vegetarian fed?
Are they really pastured then?
Poultry labels titled organic, free range, or pastured are so often misleading – because they don’t always mean that the chicken was raised in an environment free of confinement.
Organic poultry has nothing to do with confinement, instead means that the chickens were fed an organic feed, that was free of GMO’s and are not treat with antibiotics. They still, however, are kept in confinement.
Vegetarian fed is pretty important in industrial operations — it’s popular because vegetarian fed reduces the risk of animal products in poultry feed. Animal disease is an issue in poultry feed today because of the horrendous conditions that animals are raised – these conditions make them very susceptible to disease.
What is a Consumer to do?
Knowing your options is one of the most critical parts of making the best option for your family – while pastured raised options (like that at Whole Foods) are available. While those eggs at Whole Foods are pasture raised, they are are also vegetarian fed.
Which can’t be a true sign that they are pasture raised.
The Cornucopia Institute takes a look at eggs and has a scorecard to help you determine what your options are – if you can’t find a farmer in your area with pastured eggs.
Eggs that are vegetarian fed and pasture raised are certainly a large sign that they are part of an industrial confinement facility – pretty scary considering these eggs at Whole Foods are $7.50 for one dozen.
Check your local farmers market for true pastured eggs – aim for chickens permitted to roam free eating their natural diet (not a vegetarian diet) from farmers that do not use antibiotics. You will want to find out if the farmer is feeding them soy (if they are, then aim for another farmer because even organic soy is not a very good option).