Kelsey MacDonald, Seacoast Eat Local Intern
It’s Egg day at the last Seacoast Eat Local Farmer’s Market, this Saturday at the Exeter High School! The many farms that will be selling fresh eggs include: The Root Seller, Jesta Farm, Brandmoore Farm, Coppal House Farm, Hurd Farm, Mona Farm, John Holahan Farm, Brookford Farm, Patridge Farm, White Cedar Farm, Kellie Brook Farm, Riverslea Farm and Sugarmomma’s Maple Farm. Make sure to get there early for the best selection of colors and types before they are sold out!
Eggs are especially abundant in the spring time as the grass begins to grow, becoming green and packed with more nutrition. The birds also begin laying more regularly as the day light gets longer and they spend more time outside. Eggs have so much to offer as they are naturally packed with high quality protein and vitamins. Eggs are great for any diet, and can be especially helpful for weight management. Their high quality protein content allows for a steady and sustained energy without a spike (and crash) in blood sugar levels. Although they were once thought to be high in cholesterol, moderate consumption of an average of one egg (yolk) per day, or about 300 mg of cholesterol, does not increase heart disease risk and can be a part of a heart healthy diet. Like any food, eggs should be consumed in moderation, and a high increase in egg consumption can put you at a risk of heart disease.
In many ways it is better to buy local eggs compared to factory farm produced eggs that may or may not have labels touting “cage free” or “free-range”. In many cases these labels can be misleading and may not have legitimate certifying agencies checking the conditions of the birds. While local eggs may have a higher price tag, they are much higher quality due to their freshness, meaning they will last longer in your fridge. For farms that truly have free range birds, the eggs will have higher nutrient content from their mixed diet including seeds, bugs, and grasses. Studied have shown levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, D and E, and beta carotene content are increased in pasture raised birds as opposed to those raised on grain alone. There is also a higher level of antioxidants in fresh, pasture raised eggs while fat and cholesterol levels are decreased. Lastly, local pasture raised birds are able to protect the soil through pest and weed control as they eat the grasses and dig for beetles and grubs – they are a perfect example of a sustainable farming method that produces a higher quality product and returns nutrients and benefits back to the farm itself.
At the farmers’ market you will see a variety of eggs from many species of chickens, as well as geese, ducks and quail, and coming in a range of colors from blues and greens, to salmon, brown and traditional white. Their size and nutrient content varies between all of them. Duck eggs have a thicker shell than chicken eggs. They have a higher albumin (protein) content, which makes them more ideal for baking, making cakes and fluffy pastries. Duck eggs have a lower water content, but are higher in omega-3s, vitamins A and D, minerals, protein, fat and cholesterol as compared to chicken eggs. Because of the lower water content, it is important to be careful to not overcook these eggs. Those who are allergic to chicken eggs are not necessarily allergic to duck eggs.
Goose eggs are most available in the spring time. Geese lay only about 40 eggs per year, so these can be more expensive and harder to come by. These eggs are larger and have a thicker shell than chicken eggs. They also have a higher yolk to white ratio. The thick shell can be good for crafting.
Quail eggs are about a quarter of the size of a chicken’s egg. They also have a higher yolk to white ratio. Quail eggs are great boiled and are a great snack size, appetizer or garnish.