Know Your Eggs – Part 1

Source: NJ Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics

Conventional Eggs:
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.

Cage-Free Eggs
These are eggs laid by chickens who usually are housed in an open barn. The chickens may still have little space to roam, but they are not caged and are allowed perches and nest boxes to lay their eggs.
Healthier than conventional? Likely not, but you are supporting farming practices that give the birds a better quality of life.
Free-range Eggs
These eggs come from chickens who are able to roam free outside, sometimes under a shaded canopy. The time they spend outside is determined by the farm, but their ability to get more movement and fresh air is what makes these chickens unique. In addition to eating grains, these chickens forage for plants and insects for food.
Healthier than conventional? Probably not. In theory, this sounds good but there isn’t clear evidence that these eggs are better for you. Essentially, by choosing to purchase free-range, you are making a statement with your wallet that you support farmers who are creating more humane conditions for their birds.
Organic Eggs
Chickens are provided organic feed and do not receive vaccines or antibiotics. These chickens are raised cage-free or free-range — check the label to be sure. Because these farmers cannot use vaccines or antibiotics, careful measures are taken to maintain the chickens’ health. For the feed to be certified USDA organic, the grain must be grown on land that has been void of pesticides and toxic chemicals for at least three years.
Healthier than conventional? Maybe. This study comparing organic, conventional and omega-3-fortified eggs shows that organic had slightly higher protein, potassium and copper levels, while the conventional contained higher magnesium and iron, and the omega-3 eggs contained higher manganese and calcium. Essentially, change the feed and the nutrition of the eggs changes as well, but it doesn’t necessarily make organic eggs better, just different in the amount of nutrients they supply the body.
Pasture-raised Eggs
These birds roam free on maintained pasture land and eat the plants and bugs available to them. The USDA does not regulate this definition and therefore, no standards are established.
Healthier than conventional? Unknown. There are no standards, so research and recommendations could be faulty.
Vegetarian Eggs
These eggs come from chickens provided a solely vegetarian diet, void of any meat or fish byproducts. Hens are kept indoors and are not allowed to peck at any worms or bugs on the ground.
Healthier than conventional? This guarantees there are no animal byproducts or questionable ingredients in the hen feed. This may be important to someone following a vegetarian diet, but there is not clear evidence that these eggs are healthier for you.

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