Eggstatic!

You bought the chickens; now you have the eggs.

By Jeanne Ambrose

Photography by Mitch Mandel

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Cracking the Code: An Egg Glossary
The USDA recommends we buy eggs that are stored in a refrigerated case and have no cracks in their shells. This glossary explains terms used to describe eggs—or the process by which the eggs are produced. Eggs from pasture-raised chickens are found to contain more omega-3s and vitamin E than those from caged chickens, but labeling regulations are often voluntary and fairly vague. The best bet? Buy fresh. Buy local.

Cage-free: Chickens are not kept in cages. They may or may not be allowed outside.

Fortified or vitamin-enriched: Chicken feed is supplemented with vitamins or flaxseed to increase the eggs' nutritional profile. Flaxseed boosts the eggs' omega-3 (good fat) content.

Free-range: Chickens are given access to the outdoors. But that access can be limited and doesn't guarantee the outdoor area is green pasture. Some industrial farms might provide only one small door for thousands of chickens to use.

Organic: To earn the official organic label, USDA guidelines must be followed, including ensuring that feed is certified organic and the chickens are not given antibiotics or synthetic hormones.

Pasture-raised: Chickens are raised with extensive access to the outdoors, and a portion of their diet includes pasture grasses and insects.

Good Music = Good Flavor?
Walk into the henhouse at sustainable Foxhollow Farm in Elkhart, Iowa, and you'll see chickens strutting and swaying. Or are they dancing? Light rock music is piped in by the owner, Tai Johnson-Spratt. She believes it accustoms them to human voices and soothes them, reducing their stress levels, which helps them produce better eggs. Her birds roam outside, eating grass and bugs. "They have dust baths, nest boxes. They do what chickens do," she says.

That's why, Johnson-Spratt says, Foxhollow Farm eggs are "richer (the yolks are orangey-yellow instead of pale yellow)" than eggs produced by factory farms. Or maybe it's the music.

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