Eggs are my morning superfood. When it comes to nutritional value eggs are practically perfect. They are packed with high quality fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Eggs contain vitamins A, D, E, K, B-complex and minerals iron phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Plus a important nutrient called choline that most people are not getting enough of.
But eggs are not created equal. Not even close. And although buying cage free eggs at the super market is better than the regular ‘ol white ones, it’s not as good as it sounds.
Shopping for eggs can be confusing. Let me create some clarity for you.
Common egg terms and what they mean:
Regular/Conventional (grade A, AA or B eggs)
These hens are most likely raised in small cages stacked on top of each other. Their beaks are clipped and antibiotics are added to their feed. They spend the entirety of their life in a cage with no exposure to sunlight.
There are no regulations for the term "natural." Any producer can put this label on their eggs -- it has no meaning.
This term is quite deceiving. The hens are uncaged, but it doesn't mean they're free-range or roaming in the great outdoors. The hens are inside a barn or warehouse where they can roam freely, but the living conditions are typically crowded with little expose to sunlight.
This is another deceiving term. The living conditions are similar to cage-free but the hens must have access to the outdoors. It does not means they will have access to grass or that time outdoors is ensured. There is also no regulation to the size of the area for a given number of birds so crowded conditions are typical.
Organic eggs must come from chickens that are uncaged and have some access to the outdoors, even if limited. These hens are not pumped with antibiotics. They are fed an organic diet free of animal by-products, pesticides and genetically modified food.
Omega-3 labeling means the hens were fed fish oil or flax seed, but there is no way of knowing the amount since it isn't regulated.
Brown vs. White
The color of an egg is purely based on the genetics of the chicken. There are no differences in nutritional benefits; a brown egg is not healthier than a white egg.
These hens are not kept in crowded indoor conditions. They are not given antibiotics. They are free to roam on pasture, eat bugs and worms and see daylight. These hens not only live a healthier, happier life but also produce a much more nutritional egg.
And the winner is...
Eggs from pastured hens! They are by far the best. Not only do these hens live a happy life, they also produce the most nutrient dense egg. The eggs from these happy hens contain up to 20 times more omega-3 fatty acids then eggs from hens living in indoor, crowded conditions. The amounts of vitamins A, D and E are also far superior. Pastured eggs are one of the best sources of choline, a nutrient critical for healthy growth and development.
Second best goes to organic eggs. Certified organic is strictly regulated by the USDA so you are guaranteed your eggs are coming from hens free of antibiotics. You also know the feed is free of genetically modified ingredients and pesticides. If your not able to find pastured eggs, do your best purchase organic.
The good news is raising chickens is becoming more popular and thus easier for you to find a high quality egg source. Your local farmers market is a great place to find quality eggs. If this is not an option your local natural food store will mostly likely carry eggs from a high quality source.
When using eggs from pastured hens you will not only be able to taste the difference but see it too! The yolk is a beautiful deep yellow-orange. The majority of the nutritional value is found in this beautiful yolk that screams nutrition! So take the time to purchase high quality, great tasting, nutrients dense eggs. And be sure to eat your yolks!