By Vicky Babcock
Eggs—or what some refer to as “cackleberries”—have been called nature’s perfect food. And why not? Packaged in its own perfect wrapping, each egg contains a multitude of nutrients necessary to good health. Egg yolks are the richest source of choline, important for brain function and health. Eggs contain selenium, an antioxidant, as well as B12, B6, folate, vitamins A and E and lutein, which protects against macular degeneration and cataracts. Eggs are packed with muscle-building protein and, even better, they taste great!
Unfortunately, not all eggs are created equal. Living in a farm community, you’ve likely had a chance to sample farm fresh eggs from pastured, free-range hens. You can’t help noticing the darker color and fuller flavor from these liberated chicks. Obviously they’re better for you. But do you know how much? In several studies shared by Mother Earth News comparing conventional store eggs to pastured, free-range eggs, they found free-range to have one third less cholesterol, one quarter less saturated fat, two thirds more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene and four to six times more vitamin D.
These are all good reasons to buy local. Can you buy organic, free-range eggs from local grocers? Sure, but the term may be deceptive. For eggs to be labeled, “free-range”, the hens need to have access to the outdoors. This can be a small slab of concrete, not a good source of natural nutrients. “Cage free” is another deceptive term used by sellers. A warehouse or pole barn with poultry packed toe to toe could be considered “cage free”. And beware of eggs labeled, “vegetarian fed.” These are most certainly not free-range as chickens are not vegetarians.
Are there any benefits to conventional, store bought eggs? Yes. You can be sure they’ve been washed, a process that removes the bloom, an egg’s natural protection from bacterial contaminants. Large commercial farms usually replace the bloom with a coating of edible mineral oil. Does this mean that eggs should not be washed? No, we highly recommend washing eggs prior to cooking as you would any farm produce. However, allowing the bloom to remain intact for storage will increase the shelf-life of your eggs. Refrigeration is also an important factor in shelf-life, although there are those that hold that eggs do not need refrigeration. If you do decide to go that route(not recommended), be sure to check your eggs before using by placing them into a bowl of water. As one source puts it, “If it doesn’t sink, it’s going to stink!”
1 pound mild ground pork sausage
1 pound hot ground pork sausage
1(30-ounce) package frozen hash browns
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (8 oz.)
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
Fresh basil, chopped (about ½ cup loosely packed)
Combine sausage and cook in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until sausage is crumbly and no longer pink. Drain well.
Prepare hash browns according to package directions, using 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir together hash browns, sausage, and cheese. Pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Stir together eggs, milk, basil and remaining salt. Pour evenly over potato mixture.
Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes.
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