Have you heard the news? The latest research shows that eating eggs does not raise your cholesterol in most cases. Forget the egg whites, go for the whole egg! The yolk has been demonized for having high levels of cholesterol (which it does), but it is also chock full of protein, lutein, and choline, which are important nutrients for brain and eye health. The majority of fat in eggs is unsaturated fat which is considered “heart healthy.” The American Heart Association recommends up to seven eggs per week for healthy individuals, and limiting to four per week if you have high cholesterol or heart disease.
But what kind to buy? There are so many choices at the grocery store. Brown eggs? Organic? All-Natural? What do these labels even mean? The majority of them don’t mean much. Here is a review of some of the terms you will find on an egg carton and what they actually mean.
All-Natural. Just close your eyes when you see this label on eggs, in fact, close your eyes when you see this label on any food product. It means nothing and is not regulated by any third party agency. A company can say well, we did not inject artificial dyes into our food, therefore, it is natural! Another company might use the term natural to mean they used sugar instead of aspartame. Yet another company will call something natural because they used Stevia instead of sugar. It’s meaningless, but it does get consumers to buy their product. Do not be deceived my friend!!
Cage-Free. What comes to your mind when you hear the words “cage free?” I think about happy chickens roaming free in their outdoor chicken coup. Wrong. Cage free simply means the chickens are not in a tiny cramped cage. They are however, in a large dark warehouse with 20,000 other chickens with no room to move or flap there wings. Chickens are often debeaked to stop them from pecking each other to death and will likely never see the light of day.
Free Range. Free range is slightly better than cage-free. These chickens must have access to the outdoors. Meaning they live in a cramped warehouse and there is a small door that is open for an unspecified amount of time for them to go outside. It could be a pasture or it could be a 10 by 10 square foot of manure.
Organic. Ding ding ding, we have a winner! I don’t think it is critical to eat all organic food, but if you care about animal welfare,organic eggs are a good choice. For eggs to be certified organic they have to meet requirements that are regulated by the USDA. They can’t be caged, must have access to the outdoors, are fed an organic vegetarian diet and not given growth hormones or antibiotics. Unfortunately, practices such as beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted.
Certified Humane. This is actually the best choice for eggs, but it is not readily available in “normal” grocery stores. Certified Humane eggs meet all the standards of organic plus strict regulations such as the amount of space each animal gets, proper ventilation and food, and forced molting is not permitted.
Brown Eggs vs White Eggs. Same nutrients, different hens. Brown eggs are not healthier than white.
Omega-3 Eggs. This is the one type of egg that is nutritionally different. The chicken feed is supplemented with a source of omega-3’s, usually flax seed or oil. Therefore you get some omega-3’s in your chicken egg. Unless organic or otherwise specified they are raised the same way as conventional chickens.
I like to buy Organic eggs. Now that I have written this article I’m going to start looking for the Certified Humane symbol as well. It is also important to keep in mind that small farms may use organic practices but not actually be certified organic due to the high costs. For example, Underwood Farms in Moorpark is not certified organic, but they do use sustainable farming techniques and try to avoid synthetic pesticides when possible. I would also recommend buying eggs from a farmers market. Ask the farmer how the chickens are raised, they will usually be honest. Last not not least, quality food comes with a higher price tag. If you are buying super cheap eggs or meat, there is probably a reason it is cheap, and it’s not just because the store is having a sale! If you want some extra motivation to buy organic and humanely raised eggs take a look at these pictures of conventionally raised chickens.
Do you have any other egg related questions? I hope I cleared up some of the confusing and deceiving information that is out there.