Chasing Chickens through a Sunny Pasture

Through trials and talks, I’ve discovered that Vitamin D is important – as a breast cancer survivor and as a human than can run a little low on energy.  I’ve felt a boost of energy after taking a multi-vitamin with a hefty amount of Vitamin D.  However, after a long winter, my blood work still shows a deficit, and I’ve been told to take an additional supplement.  I bought the bottle and I occasionally remember to take it. During a sugar detox at the Y a couple years ago, the nutritionist was over-the-top excited about the health benefits of eggs.  According to the National Institutes of Health, eggs are one of our few food sources with natural Vitamin D – ranking just after fatty fish (salmon, tuna, swordfish, etc.) and beef liver.  Most foods that rank high in Vitamin D have been fortified with this nutrient.  The nutritionist suggested eating chickens that had seen the light of day most of their lives, as well as eggs from the same sun-drenched hens.

In pursuit of Vitamin D, I now try to have eggs more frequently – including the yolk, where the Vitamin D lives.  And, reflecting on the nutritionist’s suggestion, I switched to eggs produced by happier chickens.  Free-range or even organic chickens sounded good.  Then I saw the word “pastured” to describe eggs.  Let’s just say there are chickens surviving the bad life, many living some version of the not-as-bad life, and finally, those that are wandering free on idyllic pastures pecking away at grass and bugs.

According to a study by Mother Earth News, chickens who graze on grass and eat bugs in a sunny pasture produce eggs with 4 to 6 times the amount of Vitamin D as the traditional eggs we find in the supermarket.  Given the science of how Vitamin D is produced -- I think of it as human photosynthesis: a touch of the sun’s ultraviolet rays sets off the creation of Vitamin D in our bodies -- it seems logical that these sun-bathed flocks would have more Vitamin D in their legs and their eggs.

On occasion, if my grocery run includes Whole Foods, I’m grabbing a dozen “pasture-raised” eggs.  “Cage-free organics” are $3.69 a dozen.  “Pasture-raised” from Vital Farm's  “girls on grass, free to forage” are $7.69.  I won’t buy the Vitamin D supplement any more.  And, perhaps less meat?  And, I will keep these pastured gals in mind...

(From National Geographic website. Photo of the Day:  Chicken Farm, Pennsylvania. Photograph by Peter Essick) 

Note that this is a photograph, not a painting.

 If only a chicken could smile.