Is eating eggs "Greener" Than Eating Chickens?

I would think so…after all, the embryonic form of chicken has all the protein that an adult chicken has…plus, and adult chicken uses a lot of its food input to make inedible stuff like bones, feathers and beaks. So, are eggs the most efficient form of chicken-based protein?

Probably eating free-range eggs and chicken in the correct proportions is the greenest thing you can do, if you’re going to eat either. That is, calculate the laying life of a hen, and in the time it takes you to eat as many eggs as she would lay in her life, you eat only two chickens: her, as an old, tough stew chicken, and one cockerel as her gender equivalent.

And apparently you think right. PDF from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. Skip to table on page 68 and the column labelled emission intensity. They are looking at the global production of animal protein sources most GHG friendly (beef is way off the charts): pig; chicken meat; and chicken eggs. Kg CO2 eq/kg protein. Eggs 31.5; chicken meat 39.5; pig 51.8.

Very detailed report with regional and other variations spelled out.

Another source says it is not completely clear but that conventional “battery” commercial chickens are more GHG friendly than “free range” ones.

Is eating grass organic free range chicken feed on greener than eating eggs?

Torontonian: It would be, if we had a rumen, reticulum, abomasum, and omasum. (Yeah, I had to look it up…)

As it is, we have to heat-treat (cook) grasses before we can eat them, and so the energy cost reduces the “green-ness.”

The world has the capacity right now to feed everyone twice over. The technoogy also exists for decent solar and hydro power, such that energy and space considerations are bunkum. The capitalist system has you looking for solutions to the wrong challenges. it will never be economical to feed everyone well in this system, which depends on an overdemand stimulus. you can replace beef farming with egg farming by fiat, yet by magic there will still be a ‘shortage’ of eggs.

Do you have any suggestions? A newsletter perhaps?

Not exactly sure what your definition of ‘greener’ is, but…

Years ago I watched an episode of a PBS series on biology. It was one of those late 80s, 15-minute each episodes that used simple computer graphics and the same narrator to do similar series on physics, math etc. In the episode you were stranded in a closed environment, a space station, and you had limited resources (other than sunlight) including among other things corn feed (seeds) and live chickens. It posited whether you should plant the seeds to grow corn and kill and eat the chickens, or feed the seeds to the chickens and wait till they lay eggs and eat the eggs.

Long story short, feeding the grain to the chickens and waiting for them to lay eggs was ridiculously wasteful in terms of energy-in versus calories-generated. Eggs are incredibly more resource hungry foodstuffs than the chickens themselves. And even the chickens were worse than just the grain. They stated that you should slaughter the chickens *immediately *and eat them. Then, if you had enough time & water, plant the grain and eat the corn. If not, just eat the grain as is.

Granted this was not a show about the environmental big picture, it was about biological processes.

I question the claim that an egg has all the protein an adult has. To grow, the chicken consumes more protein and incorporates it into its body.

I find it quite unlikely a single egg could contain the same amount of protein as a full grown chicken, even after removing the inedible parts.

I think the comment is not that all the protein the adult chicken consumes goes into the eggs (any more than all consumed protein goes into its meat) or that one egg equals the protein of one whole chicken, but that eggs are a complete protein source, just as chicken meat is. Yes some consumed protein is used for energy. The question is given a chicken consuming energy and producing GHG outputs, which produces edible protein more efficiently, harvesting the eggs or harvesting the meat or, theoretically, some optimal combination of the two?

What about free range chickens that survive completely on forage (insects and mice and such) wouldn’t they require less food than even the caged birds? I’m pretty sure that live grasshoppers are fairly sustainable.

I think the idea is that if you had a stack of eggs equal in mass to a single chicken you’d have more protein eating the eggs than the chicken due to there being less waste from the eggs.

Mice? Hens hunt mice?

My guess, but no study to support it, is that chickens laying eggs as part of a mixed family farm, eating mostly out of the cow patties (undigested food bits and insect larvae that grow in it) and spreading them around, would be very efficient, if they came into lay their eggs and did so with high productivity. Most “free range” or “pasture fed” hens however need substantial feed inputs and grow more slowly so need more over the time course to hit maturity, plus I think layers need a high protein diet or they do not produce much, hence need soy added usually.

Pretty rigorously. Mice are a danger to chickens and especially their eggs. Plus they’re a high protein snack. I’ve seen a flock of hens go after a mouse and there not being anything left over, not bones, nor flesh, nor blood.

look on youtube for chicken eats mouse.

So if you see vegetarian fed eggs either the chickens are not allowed out of their cages or they're lying.

I have chickens. They have been raised on a non soy non GMO diet from day 1. They are free range all day and come in to their feed at night when they go to roost in their coop. They eat tons of grasshoppers, baby snakes and toads. I find that since they’ve reached maturity and began producing eggs, their feed has decreased due to their aggressive foraging. Their egg production has only slowed recently due to the daylight change, but I’m not comfortable messing with their internal clocks by adding artificial light in the coop.

The difference in the egg is amazing. Several of my hens are double yolkers, and the production is such that this fall, after my piggies ran away (another story for another time), I shared eggs with coworkers rather than have them back up as we don’t cook with eggs very often. I could not see myself culling these hens to eat, so my “green” contribution would run out once they stopped laying- although they would still be helping with the pest population and providing fertilizer.

My 2 pence

Not if you eat your green eggs with ham.

That’s what Easter egger chickens are for

Learn sumptin new … what did I expect … they basically are dinosaurs afterall!

And your specific experience with hens that have ample opportunity to eat large amounts of a variety of pest protein daily is of note but probably not too informative to the choices that most consumers usually have to choose between. “Free range” and “pasture fed” in the store or even at the farmer’s market and your eggs are not too likely the same circumstance. Though I am jealous as I am sure they must taste great!