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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ode to the Pastured Egg, or, Cookies Like Grandma Made

Behold, the pastured egg!

I have recently lucked into a regular supply of pastured eggs, thanks to the efforts of a colleague who regularly visits a local farm.  (Thank you to the Egg Man, if he is reading this!)  I have to say, this has made a tremendous and unexpected improvement in our diet.

Pastured eggs are eggs from hens that have been fed primarily by grazing a pasture -- that is, they eat mostly grass and insects.  Even though they often require some additional feed during the winter, this is still a huge improvement over CAFO (concentrated animal feed operation) eggs, which come from hens that are kept in cages and fed mostly corn and antibiotics. 

Pastured eggs contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which we are learning are essential to heart health and mood stabilization. You will also just instinctively feel these eggs are healthier for you when you see how strong the shell is, how viscous the whites, how orange the "yellows."  These are clearly eggs intended to nurture a chick to hatching, and they must be better for a human along the way.  As it turns out, humans may need to consume a certain amount of grass and bugs, and it is more pleasant to get them by way of a chicken or cow. 

(For a much more complete explanation of CAFO operations and the benefits of food from animals left to live as God intended, read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.  Check here to buy on Amazon.com.)

Of course, a dozen pastured eggs for two people each week is a bit of a challenge, so I have been doing more baking and slipping an extra egg in whereever I can.  One of the best uses for these eggs is cookies, and I propose you make them a lot more like Grandma or Great-Grandma used to.

Take the traditional Toll House cookie recipe.  Most of us are accustomed to a product made with margarine, white flour, and CAFO eggs, and we get a light cookie that is pretty tasty and that we can eat 14 of in a sitting. 

But Grandma didn't have any of this.  For one thing, she didn't have margarine, so substitute butter.  If you do just this step, your cookies may be a bit oily; in this case, it is a lesson in tweaking the entire system, not simply one input.  So, move on to substitute pastured eggs, a cup of light whole wheat flour for one of the cups of bleached white flour, and turbinado sugar for the refined white sugar.  Bingo, you have a rich, satisfying cookie that has a depth of flavor you wouldn't expect from a simple chocolate chip cookie.  You will be consuming better fats, more complex sugars, and whole grains, and you will probably eat about two before you are satisfied. 

It is a wonderful way to celebrate my supply of pastured eggs.

The Analysis

Fast:  Getting a supply of pastured eggs may take some time.  You are pretty much at the mercy of a local farmer or a small enough grocery to buy local.  However, putting a pastured egg into a recipe certainly takes no extra time.

Cheap:  Yes and no.  I pay $3.50 a dozen for these eggs, which works out to about 29 cents an egg.  This is way more than the CAFO eggs in the store, which I can often get for 99 cents a dozen.  However, I think if I figured things out based on nutrient density or lack of antibiotic contamination or the like, the pastured eggs would win.

Good:  This is why you buy pastured eggs.  When you taste the difference they make in recipes, you won't see this as a place to economize.
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1 comment:

  1. It has to qualify for the cheap category if it can keep me from the daily dozen I eat of the store brand cookies and cant not help the waistline either.

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