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My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
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I’m Egg-stremely Confused – Part 2: Behold the Pasture Raised Egg

You read Part 1 last week about the differences between free range, organic and cage free eggs.  Now that you’ve got your background information down, let’s talk about the very best of all egg options: the pasture-raised egg…

Behold the Pasture-Raised Egg:

These little guys live a great life.  While pasture-raised hens have little cubbies to lay eggs in, they spend most of the time pecking around outside as they have for thousands of years.  They nibble on all the bugs, earthworms and other critters that enhance their nutritional content and flavor along the way.  The better quality food the hens eats, the better their eggs become.  In fact, you’ll find that to be true in general with all food.

As a result, the yolks are usually a gorgeous golden orange color, the whites are crystal clear, and when cooked, the whites are soft instead of the normal rubbery texture we’re use to from conventional eggs.  I eat at least two a day.

From a nutritional standpoint, although the USDA maintains the position that “all eggs are equal”, there is much independent research that proves otherwise.  In pastured eggs, the levels of betacarotene can be 7 times higher (which gives the yolk that rich golden color instead of the normal pale yellow), Omega 3′s are at up to 21 times higher, and levels of vitamins A, E & D are also significantly increased as compared to conventional eggs.

Check out the chart at the bottom of this Mother Earth News article with nutritional statistics.  The levels of each nutrient may vary from farm to farm depending on breed and diet, but however you slice it, they’re packed with better things for your body compared to a factory-farmed egg.

Why isn’t everyone eating pastured eggs?

Well, there are a few hurdles…

Let’s the get shock-and-awe part over with here: pastured eggs should cost between $7.00 and $8.00 a dozen.  This seems expensive, but after what you’ve just learned about how they’re raised, it’s no surprise that why we are used to paying closer to $3.00 a dozen.  I believe that you get what you pay for, and if eggs are under $5.00 a dozen, I always have to wonder why.

There’s another problem with pastured eggs…they’re a little hard to find, and they go through ups and downs with production based on the weather.  Finicky little girls…they don’t like the extreme heat or the extreme cold, so they sorta go on strike during these times!

In a commercial large egg facility, you can control the lighting and temperature…giving you predictable results: consistency, but not in a natural way.  Yesterday, the farmers market opened at 2pm sold out of pastured eggs at 2:15.  Just be prepared for shortages.  Pastured eggs usually last at least 4-6 weeks, so buy a few dozen at a time when you can find them.  

Egg-cellent Locator

Here are some suggestions on how to get your hands on pastured eggs:

  • Local farmers markets:  The best place to find them!  One word of caution: don’t assume that they’re pastured-raised just because they’re at the market; ask the farmer about how they’re raised and what they’re fed.
  • Natural food stores:  Check natural grocers near you.  In the East Bay, my Whole Foods here in Oakland just started carrying my favorite Rolling Oaks Ranch eggs (Yay!), Berkeley Bowl, Three Stone Hearth, Berkeley & Alameda Natural Grocery usually have a steady supply.  In the city, check places like Bi-Right or Rainbow Grocery or your neighborhood natural grocer.
  • Local butcher shops: pick up some of your grass-fed beef or pastured pork while you’re there!
  • CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture): those great veggie delivery boxes that I talk about.  There are several CSA’s that sell pasture-raised meats and offer pastured eggs as an option.
  • The best site I’ve found so far to find pastured eggs in your area is Local Harvest.  Just type your zip code on the right hit search.  You can also narrow it down to just CSA’s or farms, and give them a call to find out more information.

So to summarize, if pastured eggs are hard for you to find (or not financially viable), then organic, free range eggs are the next best thing.  If you can find them from a somewhat-local source, than all the better.  And remember guys, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  Buy a dozen pastured eggs once a month if that’s all you can do…it’s still a great step in the right direction.

Happy Eating!

I’m Egg-stremely Confused – Part 1: Free Range, Cage Free, Organic…What’s the Difference?

Introducing the first post of a new blog series from Little City Kitchen Co. called The Little Locavore.  Many of you know that I’m pretty passionate about the local food movement and am always encouraging people to eat in a more mindful and informed way.  The first topic we’re going to cover is eggs…

In a recent Skype conversation with a dear friend, the subject of eggs came up.  She proudly held up her organic, cage-free container and said, “These are good, right?”  My response was that they’re certainly a step up from conventional supermarket eggs, but to beware of terms like cage-free, free range, etc…

Many of the egg-related terms are misleading, so I thought we could start with some definitions and explanations, and then we can talk about the better options…

Conventional/Supermarket style:

Sorry guys…there’s just no way to really soften this part of the message.  Eggs that are mass-produced are typically raised in little cages, sometimes as small as ½ square foot (the size of a sheet of paper) with little or no room to turn around.   They’re fed conventional feed which is generally commodity-driven, mostly animal byproducts and genetically-modified grains.

It’s not a pretty life and the eggs are lack in the nutrition department due to their conditions and diet.  If you’re a die-hard egg eater like me, any of the next categories are better options!

Cage Free:

Instead of being confined in little cages, the hens are kept in large facilities where they can walk around.  Certainly a step up from conventional practices, but be a little cautious because these facilities are often very crowded and moving around is hard (think Times Square during New Years Eve). This is definitely better than having the hens confined, but there can still be concerns with sanitation and overcrowding.

Free Range:

As we continue up the chain, free range gives us the idea that the hens are raised mainly outside in a large sprawling pasture.  But again, be a little careful, because it can be a bit of a misnomer.  It’s similar to cage-free in the sense that the hens aren’t confined in cages, but as an added bonus, free range hens get a little access to the outdoors.

The US Department of Agriculture defines free range hens as “spending part of the time outside”.  Nice and vague…  This could literally be a small door for 1000 hens that’s open for an hour a day, which the hens may or may not choose to use (hey – they’re creatures of habit, just like us).

Again, it’s certainly another step up from cage free, but I’d encourage you to do some research on what free-range actually means to the company that provides your eggs.  Sometimes it’s many doors open for many hours a day.  Sometimes it’s not.


Labeling eggs as organic is entirely referring to their feed.  As mentioned above, most free-range and cage free hens are fed the cheapest stuff on the commodity scale.  Organic means that the chicken feed comes from certified organic non-GMO grains, and contains no animal by-products.  This is yet another big step up…the better you feed your hens, the better quality (nutritional and taste) the eggs will be.

Ahhh, behold the Pasture-Raised Egg:

Which brings us to the very best of all options: the pasture-raised egg.  In Part 2 of this post, we’ll discuss how pastured hens are raised different than all the other kinds, why they’re better for you, and where you can get your hands on some.

I could dedicate a whole book to the pasture-rasied egg, so trust me, it’s more than worthy of a separate post!

Click here to read Part 2…

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.


Common Mistakes with Homemade Baby Food…and How to Avoid Them

There is a lot to worry about when you’re a new mom or dad, and even more so once you enter the great big world of “what am I going to feed the little one”. If you’ve made the choice to make your own baby food, there seems to be a whole other set of concerns that parents experience: What equipment do I need, what foods should I use, how do I store it, etc…

After a year of making baby food nearly ever week as Little City Kitchen Co. has grown, I feel like I’ve learned a lot of shortcuts and tips along the way. So here are some of the most common mistakes one can make as they embark on homemade baby food, and some suggestions on how to avoid making them.

Mistake #1) Buying expensive specialty equipment:

So you’ve been eyeing the $150 Babycook at Williams-Sonoma or any of the other cook & puree baby food appliances. In general, I’m not a fan of buying any piece of equipment that only serves one purpose (especially one that you’re not going to need after six months of use). If you were ready to spend $150 for the Babycook, consider adding $100 more and buying a food processor that you’ll use for the next 15 years.

Those baby food makers have one thing in common: they steam and puree the food. Which brings me to my next mistake…

Mistake #2) Thinking you have to steam everything

You’ve heard me say it several times before, and I’ll keep saying it…There’s a whole world outside of steaming baby food! Remember what I said in a past blog about flavorful cooking methods. I do a ton of roasting, sautéing and braising, so don’t forget about these other cooking methods to get lots of flavor into the baby food.

Mistake #3) Waiting to stock up on the basics

One of the biggest joys for me is to hear how inspired people get after taking one of my baby food cooking demos. But…then they have to spend the day buying a few supplies that I recommend (I’m working on a solution for that by the way, so stay tuned).

There are some things you can buy ahead of time (say when the little one is between 3 and 4 months old) that you’ll need:

  1. Cans of Native Forest Classic Coconut Milk
  2. Either Ice cube trays or 4 oz glass Ball canning jars
  3. Different kinds of whole grains (black rice, quinoa, farro, etc…)
  4. $20.00 coffee grinder if making your own baby cereals is on your list
  5. Various dried herbs and spices, maybe 2 tablespoons of each

Mistake #4) Cooking separate food for baby

I always tell people, the time consuming part of making your own baby food is the cooking of it, not the making of it. If you want to spend a couple hours in the kitchen making special food for baby, then that’s fine, but there’s a better way.

I recommend that you incorporate cooking for baby into your normal family cooking. Within the first couple of months of eating, they can and should be eating just about everything you do, so just hold the salt and puree it up. Roast up four sweet potatoes: two for your dinner, two for baby food. Sautee up zucchini and onions with olive oil and parmesan cheese: half for your dinner, half for baby food. This will not only save you time, but (hopefully) it will also encourage you to continue cooking healthy family meals.

Interested in More?

If you’re interested in reading more about making your own baby food, check out a few of my favorite posts for information on baby food storage containers, cooking methods, equipment reviews and more…

Happy cooking!

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.