A friend who gets her eggs on our farm told me that they’d run out while we were away on vacation. She picked up some store-bought eggs to scramble for her 6-year-old. Erik picked at his plate and said, “You’d better text Morgan. Eggs are not supposed to be this colour.”
This made my week! How cool is it for kids to be able to make the connection between nutritious foods and their vibrant appearance?
I think it is commonly understood that a dark yellow or orange yolk announces a more nutritious egg, but let’s talk about specifically why that is: The bright yellow colour you are more likely to see in a farm-fresh egg comes from both vitamin A, and B vitamins. If you want a little more information, read on!
The complete form of vitamin A (retinol) is found only in animal foods because the animal eats foods containing the vitamin A precursor, and converts it in its body to retinol, which is now immediately available for use in our bodies. The name retinol clearly indicates its importance in the function of eyesight, but it is also essential for tissue-building (including bone growth) and repair, skin growth and barrier function, as well as immune system function and lowering of cancer risk. We are accustomed to recognizing the yellow-orange in the vegetable world, knowing that carrots, red and orange peppers and red cabbage have their colour because of provitamin A (carotenoids – the most widely recognized being beta-carotene). This pigment, which is found not only in yellow and red fruits and vegetables, but also in greens (which chickens are crazy for), is converted to vitamin A by the hen, and passed along to the egg yolk.
The other source of an egg yolk’s colour is from the family of B vitamins…you know how when you take a multi-vitamin, your pee comes out bright yellow? That is from vitamin B. B vitamins are necessary in metabolism and all nervous system function, as well as liver detox pathways, and the health of skin and mucosal linings. They are rapidly used during times of stress (which include growth/childhood and pregnancy). The hens obtain the varied B vitamins from their omnivorous diet and concentrate them in their eggs. Egg yolk is a source of the sometimes elusive vitamin B12 – in fact, it is pretty much the only vegetarian source of the nutrient (dairy is also a source) , being all but nonexistent in the plant world. B12 is bright red.
You know, I just think it’s fun to celebrate nature by talking nutrition. To me, it’s pretty cool that raising animals in a more humane way that allows them to be driven by their natural instincts actually makes their meat and products more nutritious and health-promoting for humans. In this case, the free-range hens make more nutritious eggs by foraging (as opposed to being kept indoors and eating only a grain-based feed). It is my opinion that an animal who is able to follow its instincts is most content. Enabling a contented way of living is an essential part of our approach to raising animals on our farm. Everyone wins when the ‘happiest’ chickens make the most nutritious eggs!