I was talking to someone about the eggs at the farmers market where they sell for $5 - $6 a dozen, and I the question came up,
"why would I spend $5 on eggs when I can get them for $.75 to $1 at the supermarket?"
That's a great question, and the answer is because not all eggs are created equally.
Factory Egg Production
Remember that farms are businesses and as such need to turn a profit. When you see those cheap, uniform size and color, eggs at the store, you have to realize that the way factory egg production keeps it's costs down is by using substandard feeds, limit the space available per hen, and use artificial lighting to increase the egg production cycle.
Here’s the ingredients list from “16 percent Layer Crumbles,” a common feed designed for hens raised in confinement:
Plant Protein Products
Processed Grain Byproducts
Forage Products [which means it could contain pretty much anything]
Vitamin A Supplement
Vitamin D3 Supplement
Vitamin E Supplement
Vitamin B12 Supplement
Manadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex
Not to mention the antibiotics and steroids which are commonly used to combat flock illnesses and respiratory problems.
Limited space for hens
A caged hen gets 1/2 square foot of confinement in cages.
A cage free hen gets 2 square foot of roaming space outside of a conventional cage but still in confinement.
Finally a free range bird gets to run around on the barn floor but still never seeing the light of day. It's interesting how corporations can change the meaning of words so you're not getting what you're reading.
When I talk about artificial lighting, you have to remember that from the time these birds hatch till the time they are culled, they never intentionally see the light of day. In order to maximize egg production, artificial daylight cycles are produced by electrical lighting and heating.
So What's The Difference?
In the book of Genesis, right in the first chapter, God blessed us and said "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." We are responsible for the care and use of each hen, and while we have dominion over these animals, it's in our best interest to give them the most natural life we are able to, which includes clean water, access to natural foraging, sunshine, and protection from predators. It's this humane management of the resources that God gave us that makes the difference between dominion and exploitation and the difference between a weak substandard product and a superior production.
In return for the good care we provide, when hens have fresh air and sunshine, are able to eat grass, bugs, worms, and are supplemented with non-GMO feeds the eggs they produce are superior.
How superior are their eggs you might ask?
Also, if you look at my article on "Can you make money on pastured eggs" you'll see that at $5 a dozen, the small farmer is not making a lot of money to bring these superior eggs to market for your family.