Local eggs: delicious, but pricey. Worth the cost?

Last week, we splurged on a dozen organic local eggs at the farmers market.  At 4 times the cost of typical grocery store eggs, these were definitely pricey.  They were also labeled “soy free”.  What the heck does that mean?  I didn’t know chickens were made out of soy.  Oh wait, they’re not.  Labeling eggs “soy free” is kind of like labeling broccoli “gluten free” – a nonsense term, intended to create a fake Health Halo.  But soy nonsense aside, they sure tasted fabulous.  Is fabulous taste worth the price?  Are local organic eggs more nutritious?  What exactly is worth the price when it comes to local food?

As for being more nutritious, there really isn’t any significant research that proves this one way or another.  Large scale production of inexpensive eggs relies on commercial feed, with chickens kept in factory-like conditions.  According to the Egg Nutrition Center, any small differences in nutritional content between egg varieties depends on the chicken breed more than on what feed a chicken eats, or whether it was given antibiotics or growth hormones.  Devotees of local organic food might disagree.  The Egg Nutrition Center is funded by egg producers, and is supposedly independent.  But Big Agribusiness money interests can easily seep into the policy of similar organizations.   Consequently, there isn’t good research comparing the nutritional quality of organic vs factory eggs, because who would pay for such research?  Certainly not the factory egg producers.  And the small local organic egg producers don’t have the resources to do that.

Is flavor worth the extra cost?  The flavor of the eggs we bought was incomparable.  Factory eggs are tasteless and watery by comparison.  Then there’s the issue of transportation costs and supporting local businesses.  A family member adamantly believes that the motivation to buy local is all about transportation costs and energy conservation.  I believe it’s about local business and a Health Halo of food purity.  In the case of eggs or other animal-sourced food, some consumers might also consider the animals’ living conditions as an issue.

In most cases, local/organic is more expensive.  A recent survey of restaurant customers indicated that a majority would not pay more money for “healthy” menu items.  Does that translate over to grocery purchases?  Or do taste and quality trump cost?  I’ll probably buy those wonderful local eggs again sometime, for cooking and eating as eggs.  But if I’m baking and the recipe calls for eggs, I’m not likely to use expensive and delicious eggs to make a cake or cookies.

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