EGGS

I’ve got a great visual for you today.  Get ready, for you are about to see with your very eyes the difference between something raised the way God designed vs. something raised the way man finds convenient.   You are about to see actual nutrition, and a lack of it.

Here you see eggs from the grocery store. These eggs are expensive, “all-natural” eggs from the health food store and, according to the label, actually came from a local farm (although I have never heard of this farm, as it does not show up on local farm searches nor does the farmer attend local farmer’s markets).

These eggs are a typical light yellow color.  Notice that as they were cracked into the bowl, they fell out all in a jumble.

Now check out eggs purchased direct from a farmer I know.

 

Notice the deep orange yolks.  You can also see the uniformity with which they landed in the bowl when they were cracked open.  This is because the whites are thicker around the yolks, keeping the eggs spaced apart.  If you look closely at the yolk on the top right, you can see the outline of the thicker egg white.

Need another comparison?  Look at this next picture.  Here you see the two types of eggs next to each other.  Can you guess which is which?

Yes, the three pale eggs came from the natural foods store (and these were actually from a nationally known company, and were certified organic) while the one deep orange egg came from another local farmer I know.  You might be interested to know that the local egg was actually about 3 weeks old – not super fresh.  Again, notice the difference in the texture of the whites – you can see the thick egg white from the local egg, while the whites of the store eggs are almost not visible.

So what’s the point of all this?  The point is that the deeper, richer, and more vibrant color of the egg yolk, the more nutrient dense and healthy it is for you to eat.  And how do you get eggs such a deep orange color with firmer whites?  You let the hens roam freely on pasture, in the sunlight, eating the bugs and greens they choose.

I’m sure you have had sticker shock over the prices of organic free-range eggs from the grocery store.  The local eggs from the store in the first picture cost me $3.69 a dozen!  I bought them because they were local – the stamp on the carton said so – but I definitely did NOT get my money’s worth.  Basically I got a dozen eggs from hens that were most likely confined to the indoors, eating an all vegetarian diet of various grains.  And who knows what was really in that mix.  I know this simply by looking at the pale yellow yolks and runny whites.  There is no difference in the store eggs in the first picture and the organic store eggs in the last picture, except the organic eggs cost even more and had all kinds of great wording on the label.  In the end, both store eggs were over-priced and low-quality.

I’m also sure that if you have tried to purchase pastured eggs direct from a local farmer that you’ve had sticker shock there as well.  I know that I have paid up to $4.50 a dozen for local, pastured eggs.  But go back up and look at the pictures again and you will see that while both are expensive, one is a much better deal than the other.  The pastured eggs are far superior in every way.

While the local pastured eggs are definitely more visually appealing, that is the tell-tale sign that these are healthier, more nutritious eggs.  It is this intense orange color that is proof of more carotenes and higher levels of fat soluble vitamins.  Fat soluble nutrients do all kinds of good things for you, including lowering your risk of cancer, protecting your skin, and supporting your eyesight.  Eggs from hens allowed to forage for bugs and greens on pasture in the sunlight actually have more nutrients than those from hens raised indoors on all vegetarian feeds.  This includes more Omega 3 Fatty Acids (in fact, pastured eggs have a near perfect ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12.

Another very important nutrient in pastured eggs is Choline.  This is a substance found in every living cell in your body, and is a major component of your brain.  But your body cannot make enough Choline on its own, therefore we need to get it from animal foods such as pastured eggs.  A Choline deficiency leads to a folic acid deficiency.  This is why pregnant and nursing women should be eating at least two eggs every day, and why cooked egg yolks are the perfect first food for baby.  Additionally, Choline can help prevent heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s because it is an anti-inflammatory and actually helps prevent fat and cholesterol from sticking to arteries.  So eggs are an important source of nutrition from pre-birth throughout life.

Now that you know how nutrient dense pastured eggs really are, you might not be so upset about their high price.  Even at $4 a dozen, eggs are a really inexpensive source of valuable nutrients.  But if it’s still tough on your budget, then you might consider raising your own backyard flock.  Unless you live in a highly restricted neighborhood, most cities and towns allow residents to own a few hens.  Roosters are another story.  But hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs!  Supposedly, keeping a few hens in your backyard is not just easy but fun as well.  And from what I hear there is nothing quite like having your own supply of fresh, pastured eggs just outside your back door.

For more information, including a book list for keeping backyard flocks as well as recipes for your own chicken feed supplement, check out “Eat Your Eggs And Have Your Chickens Too” by Jen Albritton at www.westonaprice.org.   There is also a wealth of information about the health benefits of eggs at www.whfoods.org.   For lots of great egg recipes, info on feeding eggs to babies, and even more egg nutrition information, read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.

So all this business about eggs clogging your arteries and causing heart disease is just not true.  You no longer need to avoid egg yolks or that delicious fried egg breakfast.  It is the egg substitutes and powdered eggs and imitation junk that is truly dangerous to your health.  In fact, salmonella isn’t even a concern with pastured eggs, since a healthy hen does not lay contaminated eggs.  As always, God’s foods reign superior, especially when they were raised the way He designed.

 

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LITTLE HEATHENS: A Book Report

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I just finished reading the most delightful book; a New York Times Best Book of the Year that my mother just happened to suggest in passing.  It wasn’t anything I was set on reading, but it was what was available when I had the time and I’m so glad it was.

The book is titled, Little Heathens:  Hard Times And High Spirits On An Iowa Farm During The Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish.  Kalish, who grew up on an Iowa farm during the Depression, simply writes about her childhood.  The book is reminiscent of the Little House books in that Kalish records exactly how things were done during a significant time in the history of our country.  Except this book is non-fiction, written in a friendly narrative manner.  The first sentence reads, “This is the story of a time, and a place, and a family.”  Kalish begins by telling us about her great, great grandparents who were among the first pioneers to settle in Iowa.  The family maintained a legacy in Iowa for several generations, operating several family farms where they lived, ate, and worked together. From there Kalish describes the many ways the children built character through chores, home medicine, farm food, and living without modern conveniences like electricity and running water.  Then she covers each season of the year and the distinct events that stand out in her mind; from nut gathering at the family cemetery to box socials at the local schoolhouse.  The book is full of details of rural life during the Depression, from chores to cooking to home remedies.  There are many recipes for farm foods, natural cures, and natural cleaning.  The phrase, “Little Heathens,” was what her grandmother called the children when they got into trouble on the farm (and there are many fun tales of such trouble in this book!).  Kalish has a gift for describing a way of life that totally absorbs the reader into the nostalgia of the time, back when America was still much more rural than urban, and the family was a bigger influence on the children than entertainment.  One word of caution:  when Kalish says she is going to describe the way of life on a farm during the Depression, she describes everything, including “coming of age”, language, and other sensitive issues.  Nothing is left out!

 

I always love reading about how people lived in earlier times.  I know I probably way over-romanticize it, because back then it was truly tough and scary living.  On the other hand, there’s so much to be said for that way of life before people totally left the land, and eventually their families, to live in sterile homes and work in closed up offices behind computers, only to return home to the tv and a lack of reality.  I really think that in so many ways we’ve lost our way.  And this book helps remind us of what is really important.  As she discusses how intensely difficult life was for her family, and how very strict her grandparents were on the children, she is sure to point out, “…I have come to view that time as a gift.  Austere and challenging as it was, it built character, fed the intellect, and stirred the imagination.”  Imagine that – living in near poverty, without modern conveniences, without special after-school programs, and even without yearly well-checkups, these children managed to grow up with strong character, intellect, and imagination!  They were full of life, well-adjusted, and healthy.

 

So why am I giving a book report about this book?  Because this book is all about the simple living and unadulterated food that I am so passionate about.  First, there is an entire chapter devoted to “thrift.”  Kalish begins by quoting the old sayings, “ Use it up; wear it out; make it do; do without” and “ “Willful waste makes woeful want.”  This family didn’t have curbside garbage service; they didn’t need it because they literally used everything until it was just no more.   This thriftiness pervaded their entire beings.  The outcome was a very earth-friendly family before, of course, it was cool to be green.

 

I once knew a girl who thriftily bought a whole chicken because it was cheaper than buying the boneless breasts.  She cooked the entire thing, cut off the breast meat, and threw out the rest of the chicken!  Think of the animal whose sole created purpose was to feed her family; discarded and thrown away simply out of sheer ignorance.  Chapter 28 is devoted to the animals on Kalish’s family farm.  She describes how the family lived in “intimate contact” with a wide variety of farm animals, how they loved each one, and delighted in them.  She says, “The domestic animals were almost like people to us, and we treated them with respect.  Their welfare was always our prime concern.”  This is drastically different from today.  We are raised to think nothing of these animals who give their lives to our service.  To us, they have become nothing more than a cut of meat wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray.  All we care about is which cut is cheaper.  But this is a new phenomenon.  Since the beginning of time, man has lived closely with the animals that nourish and serve him.  This relationship develops a healthy respect and conscientiousness that quickly goes missing when we leave the farm.  I remember volunteering at the farmer’s market where a customer was irritated by the high cost of a package of chicken livers.  When he complained to the farmer, she responded by pointing out, “Each one of those livers represents one whole chicken, and a huge investment!”  I wonder what Kalish’s grandparents would think of today’s confinement operations and feedlots where animals are treated without any care?

 

Farm living during the Depression was hard living of course.  Kalish makes this very clear as she details the amount of work that was required by every soul, from the youngest to the oldest.  Everyone had a job and was expected to participate.  The result was a sense of pride and ownership in every last detail of life.  Through the hard work, the family spent their days interacting with each other, teaching and learning while helping and serving.  This was true whether they worked in the barn, the garden, or the fields. And in the end, everything and everyone wound up in the kitchen.  Kalish says, “It should be obvious by now that the center of all activity in those days was the kitchen.  It was where we gathered for companionship and for a variety of work and leisure-time pursuits, where we ate all our meals, and where people entered the house most of the time.”  She goes on to describe their farmhouse kitchen in detail, pointing out that the kitchen “took up half of the first floor of the house.”  The kitchen description takes several pages!  She ends her description with this:  “There were many good reasons for being in the kitchen – light, warmth, food, drink….All in all, the kitchen had just about everything to make one comfortable.”

 

I love how she describes her memories of the farmhouse kitchen.  It is the smell of food that swallows her up and takes her back to her childhood.  Not pre-packaged microwaved fake food, but real food loaded with real animal fats and fresh goodies from the garden:

 

The smell of bacon is what brings back a flood of memories to me…I conjure up the taste of a sandwich made of homemade bread spread with smoked bacon drippings, topped with the thinnest slices of crisp red radishes freshly harvested from the garden, and sprinkled over with coarse salt.

 

Consider the modern family of today.  We have so many extra-curricular activities that we are strung out from one end of town to the other.  Instead of working together toward a common goal (the welfare of the family), most American children spend their free time playing the Wii, texting friends, or hanging out at the mall.  Family Night usually centers around “Dancing With The Stars” or “American Idol” and a delivery pizza.  When our children grow up, their nostalgic scents will revolve more around the smell of microwave popcorn or the rancid oils and fake fats from delivery pizza.  Hmmm.  It seems to be lacking something, doesn’t it?

 

One of the things I loved about this book was the continuing theme of family working together.  But there was another, even stronger theme woven throughout this book:  how loving and working the land leads one to an intimate relationship with the land, that then brings about valuable knowledge and skills, which bring health, life, and vitality to each person.  When you know valuable skills, you then have a confidence in your ability to cope with life.  You have become empowered, no longer helpless and dependent.

 

Here’s a great quote that gives some insight into why Kalish wrote this book.  She wants her family to know what it took to survive during difficult times so different from those we live in now, but, she says, “…most of all I want them to enjoy the kinship of souls that is created when everyone gathers in the kitchen to prepare a meal together.  Although cooking today is vastly easier, there is still nothing like putting a good meal on the table to make people feel they have done something meaningful.”  I totally agree.

 

There is so much more about this fun book than what I have shared here.  Check it out, and consider how you can take your family “back to the land.”  You will never regret it.