Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A good egg

If you thought choosing a healthy juice was tough, have you been down the egg aisle? There are so many varieties that eggs come in: white, brown, cage free, organic, free range, grain fed, vegetarian fed, extra omega 3, green eggs & ham (sorry, these are only available at Dr. Seuss' grocery store).

What is the healthiest & safest type to eat?!

First of all, let me clarify that a whole, real, out-of-the-shell egg is very healthy. Eggs are full of vitamins, proteins, and antioxidants. They do have cholesterol in them, however, the ones with higher amounts of omega 3's reportedly have lesser amounts of cholesterol. As always though, moderation and common sense are key. Finding a reputable, informative source on eggs and chickens turned out to be more difficult than boiling the perfect hard boiled egg (confession: I am completely lacking in this cooking skill). So that is why there is not my usual collection of links in this post; this is a summary of the wide variety of articles I came across. You may want to visit Mr. Google if there is a particular type of egg you want to know more about.

Color: Brown or white eggs just mean they come from white or red chickens; there is no nutritional difference. Even though "brown" foods are usually the better choice - brown rice, wheat bread, wheat pasta, chocolate (I said "better" not "healthier" ;) - this is not the case with eggs!

Standard: Your regular, plain eggs are just that; nothing extra or special to them. From what I have gathered, these chickens are in very tight quarters with less than a square foot of space per chicken. Unless they are caged, (see below section on cage-free and link to Eggland's Best) this is concerning because the closely packed chickens are more likely to catch illnesses and diseases. 

Cage Free & Free Range: While these labels are regulated for chicken, it is not regulated by the FDA for eggs. So the terms can mean that there is an open door in the chicken coop for the chickens to go outside only if they can get to the door. Some companies do specify what type of environment the chickens are in (such as Kroger's Simple Truth brand or Eggland's Best cage free varieties) so you have to read the packaging if this is an important egg quality to you. Eggland's Best also has some good information on their site with more about caged vs. cage free. It was interesting to read.

Organic: These chickens are fed only USDA organic certified feed and it has to follow all of the regulations set forth. Most of the articles I have come across state that there is no nutritional difference in these eggs but is the more environmentally friendly option. I found it interesting that it was mentioned several places about there not being any evidence of pesticides and such crossing into eggs (or there being any harm in this...supposedly) but that chickens fed the high omega 3 content produced eggs with high levels of this good nutrient. How do pesticides and preservatives not cross into eggs but omega 3's are able to? Not sure about that but I am no eggspert. 

Grain & Vegetarian Fed: I think this type of egg can fall into the same "health myth" as brown eggs. It sounds like it would be healthier, right? The problem is, chickens are omnivores and eat vegetables, grains, and meat. They really shouldn't be vegetarians because that is not how chickens were made. Also, these chickens are fed a lot of soy feeds and soy is a very common GMO food.

High in Omega 3: I mentioned this a little above but these chickens are fed a diet high in this important nutrient and it boosts this component of the eggs. These eggs are the most nutrient dense. I am thinking about switching to this type for our family as the most cost saving and healthy option. We might splurge on organic or the next type of egg occasionally though.  

Pasture raised: This would be my personal first choice of eggs. These chickens are allowed to roam around on a farm or field environment and fed healthy chicken diets. I picture these chickens being like the ones from Babe or the scene in Cinderella where she is out singing and happy little chickens come running to her. Happy chickens must lay happy eggs, right? Actually, I did read  that these did have the best nutritional content. Unfortunately, these are not always the most readily available or cheapest (our farmer's market sold them for about $3.50-$4/dozen during the summer).

That concludes the egg carton vocabulary lesson! 
Now, anyone want to go into farming with me to raise some egg laying chickens?

1 comment:

  1. Yes I do! I'm trying to convince Bo to build me a coop so I can get some. I want a cow too. :) I think we're kindred spirits. :)