To say that the egg industry is a big business is an understatement. According to a recent Globe and Mail Article, The cage-free egg trend: Is it just a shell game? Every year, there are 40 million boxes of eggs laid – equivalent to about 600 million dozen.
In recent years, eggs have become ‘good to eat again’, in fact, they are often referred to as the “perfect food” and we no longer need to fear them as the culprit for raising our levels of high cholesterol.
I definitely encourage my clients to eat eggs on a regular basis. What’s not to love about them; they’re delicious, nutrient dense, but also incredibly versatile and easy to make.
But, buying eggs these days is not as simple as it once was when our grannies were growing up. I mean you used to go to the store and just buy eggs. Who could have imagined that we would have so many choices now: conventional, free-range, omega-3, cage-free, organic, with a very seldom, sprinkle of pasture raised eggs.
So which of these is the best option to choose from? Which come from the healthiest and happiest hens and ultimately which are healthier for you to consume?
Here’s the lowdown:
Conventional Eggs: These are your typical eggs found at the supermarket. They come from hens raised in rooms or cages, where they have no access to sunlight or fresh air. These are categorized as follows:
- Battery cages, in which four to eight birds each have about 67 square inches of living space (this is about the size of a magazine cover)
- “Furnished” cages, in which the birds have about twice as much space, and separate areas for nesting and perching.
- Cage-free, or free-run, in which many birds live close in an open barn, with very little room.
These hens are fed grain based feed (generally GMO), as well as some vitamin and minerals, and may also be treated with antibiotics and hormones.
Omega 3 Eggs – these are conventional eggs that have been fed omega 3 supplementation
Free-Range – Conventional eggs, which the sole difference being that they may have access to the outdoors for as little as 5 min a day.
Organic Eggs – Generally birds live in the same living conditions as conventional hens, except that they are fed organic feed and free of hormones or antibiotics.
Image Source: The cage-free egg trend: Is it just a shell game? The Globe & Mail, March 2017
Pastured Eggs – Birds are allowed to roam free, eating scraps, insects and grass and some supplemental feed, which is generally scrap based and soy free (during winter months). They have access to plenty of sunlight.
Just as our health and vitality increase when we have access to fresh air, sunlight, movement, so does the animals, including hens.
A study conducted by Mother Earth News found that when compared to conventional eggs, pasture raised eggs usually contain:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
WHERE DO YOU FIND PASTURED EGGS?
Pastured eggs are seldom found at supermarkets, so you need to head to a local farmer’s market and chat up an egg farmer. We are incredibly lucky these days to have access to local farmer’s markets almost every day of the week, which means that sourcing quality eggs are totally possible even with a hectic schedule.
I hope this helps you make the best choice for you and your family.