Inexpensive and readily available, these eggs were laid by hens usually housed in a very full hen house, often without seeing daylight. Although the hens may not be treated as well as others, they contain choline, vitamin D, “good” cholesterol, and are a great protein choice for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.
These eggs have been heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 3½ minutes, which completely kills any bacteria without cooking the egg. These eggs are ideal for pregnant women, children and those with compromised immune systems as the pasteurization process significantly reduces the risk of foodborne illness from salmonella. The chickens who lay these eggs do not necessarily experience any type of cage-free or free-range living conditions — pasteurization occurs after eggs reach the plant.
Healthier than conventional? Nutritionally the same as conventional eggs, but likely safer with lower risk of salmonella foodborne illness.
Unless otherwise noted on the carton, these eggs are simply conventional eggs. The color is determined by the breed of hen who lays it — brown eggs come from chickens with red feathers and red ear lobes.
Healthier than conventional? No nutritional differences.
Farmers Market Eggs
Each farmer determines how they raise and feed the hens. This is the perfect place to inquire about practices. Eggs purchased at the farmers market may or may not be less expensive than store brands. However, for safety purposes, ensure that the farmer washed and refrigerated the eggs within 36 hours to reduce risk of salmonella.
Healthier than conventional? This depends on the feed and farming practices. Talk with the farmer about these and ask if they conduct any nutrient analysis on their eggs.
The feed has been supplemented with an omega-3 fatty acid source like flax seed or fish to increase the quantity of omega-3 delivered by the egg. Nutrient analysis will differ by brand so read the Nutrition Facts Label. The hens may be raised conventionally or otherwise, but if the label does not imply a particular practice, expect conventional methods. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, a conventional large egg has 51 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.
Healthier than conventional? Most common brands found in grocery stores supply 160 to 225 milligrams omega-3 per egg. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1.1 to 1.6 grams of ALA (omega-3 fatty acids from plants) daily. Other institutions recommend additional sources of omega-3 fats, such as DHA and EPA, because it is unclear how much ALA is converted into DHA and EPA in the body. While fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel can supply substantially more EPA and DHA than omega-3 fortified eggs, this type of egg may be a good option for those who do not eat fish or other omega-3 plant sources like flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts.
The Bottom Line
If food cost is important to you, conventional eggs may be the perfect choice for your family. Reasons for choosing non-conventional eggs can range from concerns about farming practices to whether the other foods in your diet are providing enough needed nutrients. No matter the egg you choose, always know that you have a choice and you decide what you consume and how much.