The more micronutrients pass into an animal, the more will be left for us in the milk eggs, fat organs and meat of the animals. A dairy cow that only eats corn not only has poor health, it also has little to give us. A Chicken butchered at 8 weeks cannot have processed enough feed to have good stuff in it. A "stewing hen" on the other hand, (a laying hen that has reached the end of its productive life) is chockful of nutrients, while admittedly tough.
Most Pastured/Free Range chickens consume 1/3 of their diet from pasture. Consider the table below comparing Polyface Farms eggs and the USDA standard. No wonder pregnant women need more folate. These eggs have 200+ times the folate. Of course, the food industry quickly fortify our orange juice with calcium, saying it has more calcium than milk, and chickens can be fed fortified foods with increased folic acid. But artificial vitamins rarely perform like natural ones.
Polyface Farm vitamin E: 7.37 mg
USDA vitamin E: 0.97 mg
Vitamin A: 763 IU
USDA vitamin A: 487 IU
Beta carotene: 76.2 mcg
USDA beta carotene: 10 mcg
Folate: 10200 mcg
USDA folate: 47 mcg
Omega-3s: 0.71 g
USDA omega-3s: 0.033g
Cholesterol: 292 mg
USDA cholesterol: 423 mg
Saturated Fat: 2.31 g
USDA saturated fat: 3.1 g
Indicators of good eggs include:
Strong shell (adequate calcium/manganese)...Chickens can bluff this for the early part of their laying career by cannabilizing their bones, similar to human pregnancy muscle cramps. (Shell color proves nothing, but white eggs often come from leghorns which don't process as much feed)
Strong yolk (yolk doesn't easily break/puncture) indicates better protein development
Orange or Deep Yellow yolk color. Carotenoids are a class of pigmented substances including Vitamin A and antioxidants. They give Carrots their orange color, and indicate the processing of greens by the animal. (for the same reason, grass-fed dairy and grass-fed beef fat are yellow tinged.)
Thus Orange yolks are not inherently very healthy, but indicate a good diet for the chicken.
Marigolds. While reading "Out Here" a magazine put out by TSC (the local farm-store chain) I came across their ad for Poultry Feed. Like all Purina SunFresh Recipe Poultry Feeds, Layena Plus Omega 3 Contains marigold extract for rich golden yolks...
Further research indicates Marigold extract, to color egg yolks is a big business. Dirty sneaks.
So to answer my first question, "how do you know if the eggs are good?" Its about the farmer. Ask the farmer, find one you trust, visit the farm, then buy your stuff. Rules were possibly made to be broken and regulations were certainly made to be dodged. People want profits, and the best accountability is direct: Consumer to Producer. I, the farmer want you to trust my food because you've seen how I raise it. Come on down!