Spring is here again. And no food better represents springs than eggs. The egg has been a symbol of spring in many different cultures dating back to ancient Rome. To Romans, the egg meant new life and reproduction.
My connection with eggs and spring time is Passover. For the holiday, a roasted hard boiled egg represents a festival sacrifice that was offered in the Temple of Jerusalem. We also dip eggs into salt water, combining two of my favorite things: eggs and salt.
And eggs are well known with the holiday of Easter. To Christians, the egg means the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Additionally, egg hunts and colored eggs have become popular with the holiday in modern times.
As The Appropriate Omnivore, eggs have another special meaning to me. It’s one of the earliest foods I remember enjoying. Even before steak. Back in 2011, I learned the benefits of cholesterol and saturated fat. I then realized how amazing of a food eggs are as the yolk has the highest amount of cholesterol in any food. Eggs are also a great source of vitamins A, B, D, E, and K plus provide iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium, choline. So I can now savor my eggs at breakfast time and not fear eating the yolks.
But as with all foods, it’s important to properly source your eggs and know the true meaning of the labels. There are many brands of organic eggs, but the organic label doesn’t say anything about whether or not the chickens where raised in confined spaces. It simply means the hens were given an organic feed. Even free range isn’t all it’s cracked up to. The only requirement for a free range label is the chickens have access to the outdoors, but they may never be let outside.
The minimum for finding nutrient dense eggs is a label of pasture raised. This means the chickens are given at least 108 square feet of pasture. However many of the eggs listed below go beyond this standard and into practices such as regenerative agriculture.
In alphabetical order, here are the 10 best pasture raised eggs you can find in supermarkets:
Alexandre Family Farm founders and 5th generation farmers Blake and Stephanie Alexandre began a dairy in 1988 in southern California, where Stephanie grew up. With Blake always wanting to return to northern California, they seized upon a farm was for sale in Del Norte County in 1992. This location was just two hours north of the original Alexandre farm in Ferndale. In addition to Blake returning to northern California, this was also the chance for both Blake and Stephanie to return to the practice of organic grass grazing cows like their grandparents did. More recently they’ve been certified regenerative by the Savory Institute‘s Land to Market and the Regenerative Organic Alliance program. Their cows are also A2. Along with dairy, they have eggs under the label Alexandre Kids as the children helped them start the egg business back in 2005. Their children are now adults and are 6th generation farmers working for Alexandre Farms.
Chino Valley Ranchers
In the early 1950s, Chino Valley Ranchers began as Charles Burton Nichols was working with farmers in Southern California to sell their eggs to local supermarkets. Then in 1959, Charles purchased chickens and started producing eggs himself. As early as then, he took a cage free approach to raising the chickens. For around 30 years now, Chino Valley has used organic agriculture methods. They own and operate Southern California’s only organic feed mill for poultry. And their latest development has been offering eggs from pasture raised chicken. Chino Valley remains family owned and operated. The company is led by second-generation family members Steve & Kathy and their son and third-generation members Chris and Mindy. Additionally, many employees have been with the company over 20 years. Chino Valley is sustainable in various ways including its processing plants with solar panels and turbines, recycled packaging material, water recycling, and composting on the farms.
Farmers Hen House
Originating from an Amish farmer Eldon T. Miller in 1997, Farmers Hen House was born with a few farms in Kalona, IA. Having grown beyond what Eldon could do with his Amish lifestyle, Kalona local Mark Miller (no relation) began running the company and continued the tradition of working with small local family farms. Farmers Hen House now consists of over 50 farms. The majority of it is still local Kalona farms along with some in Bloomfield, IA and northern Missouri. Mark’s son Ryan is now the president and co-owner. Ryan oversees the egg grading and distribution center in Kalona, where the eggs are cleaned, graded and packaged. The processing plant, like many of the farms, is powered by solar energy.
Handsome Brook Farm
Handsome Brook Farm is a collection of small farms who share in their values of providing acres after acres of rotated pasture. Their family farms range across six states from the east coast to the midwest. Each farm is part of a regional group where they receive support from farm supervisors and experts to have a community of mutual support, education, and logistics. Handsome Brook is involved in regenerative farming with processes such as pasture rotation, reseeding, and planting trees planting to improve soil health and sequester carbon.
Happy Egg Co.
The story of Happy Egg Co. begins in 1949 as Margaret and Clifford Kent were given a wedding present of 50 chickens from Margaret’s family. In 10 years, they grew their herd into 2,000 birds. It was always important for the Kent’s to go against the grain of the conventional egg industry and raise their chickens in humane ways, such as providing them with clean air, good lighting, and space. Their son Michael later took over of the business as continues to expand the business and find new ways to raise chickens in the best conditions.
Helpful Hens is the latest label by Egg Innovations. Egg Innovation’s roots in farming date back over 100 years ago to the Brunquell homestead in Port Washington, WI. Its CEO John Brunquell is a third generation farmer who grew up with conventional agriculture practices. John then studied agronomy in college. Many years after college, he learned about cage free chickens and went into researching poultry science and animal behaviors. He then understood that the best eggs come from naturally raised chickens. In 1999, he found Egg Innovations with the mission to prove you can run a successful business where the chickens are treated well. In 2013, John founded the consumer brand Blue Sky Farms. Most recently, in 2021, John launched the Helpful Hens line which sources eggs from farms involved regenerative agriculture practices. Helpful Hens is certified regenerative by Soil Regen.
In 2015, New Barn Organics was founded as a company which wanted almond milk that tasted like it was homemade. So they began producing an almond with simple organic ingredients. New Barn has since expanded into regenerative organic certified pasture raised eggs. For this venture, New Barn partnered with NestFresh Eggs. New Barn co-founder Ted Robb said they chose NestFresh because of their devotion to regenerative agriculture and their belief that it’s important in creating a healthier food system for the generations to come. New Barn’s eggs are verified by the Regenerative Organic Alliance.
The history of Pete and Gerry’s dates back to the late 1800’s and the Ward Family Farm in Monroe, NH. Robert Ward farmed dairy cattle and hens. When World War II ended, Robert’s son Les returned from the Navy and expanded the farm with his brother-in-law Rodney Stanton. When factory farmed eggs were driving small farms out of business in the 1980s, the two refused to go in that direction. The farm is now run by Les’ daughter Carol, her husband Gerry Laflamme, and Rodney’s son Peter Stanton. The Pete and Gerry’s brand was named after them and created to sell pasture raised organic eggs. Their eggs are free of antibiotics, synthetic pesticides, GMOs, or animal by products. In 2003, Pete and Gerry’s became the first Certified Humane eggs.
Vital Farms starts in 2007 with a 27 acre farm in Austin, TX. When Whole Foods discovered their eggs at a farmers market, they began selling them throughout their supermarkets in the midwest. Vital Farms began working with small farmers all over the country using the Vital Farms name on their products. They’re now partnered with over 100 family farms and are sold nationwide.
Wilcox Family Farms
Wilcox Family Farms is over 100 years old and is currently run by the fourth generation of the Wilcox family. Their organic and sustainable practices date back to when the land was purchased by the family in 1909. Being along the Nisqually River in central Washington State, the family knew they had a responsibility to not use any chemicals or pesticide which could run off into the river. They also use locally grown feed for the chickens when possible. Their eggs are now verified as coming from regenerative farms as part of the Savory Institute‘s Land to Market program.