Eggs are back in, and with new scientific data showing that eggs are a nutritional powerhouse. Eggs were given a bad reputation, but they are on the rebound as researchers have found that dietary cholesterol does not impact blood cholesterol as much as they previously thought. (This is not medical advise please listen to your doctor or nutritionists if they suggest eliminating eggs, they know your situation much better, and they want you to be healthy). This rebound may inspire you to go buy eggs, but you get to the store and are hit with a swarm of confusion with the cartons covered in words like “cage-free,” “hormone-free,” “pasture-raised,” “farm fresh.” If you do not know what they mean buying eggs can leave you with a headache.
I am attempting to help you make a more informed decision when buying eggs and clear up some of the confusion while you are at the store, and to give you some help to spot the difference between a marketing term and something that is regulated.
Before we jump into the terms, we first need to discuss the current chicken situation. The chicken are typically caged and the law requires that factory egg production give chickens a minimum space around the size of a piece of paper depending on what state you live in. This size does not allow for much movement, but the chickens would be able to turn. Conventional eggs are typically minimize the space per chicken to which maximizes their space. This leads to better profits for them and better prices for the consumer. The chickens are typically fed a mixture of corn, soy and cottonseed meal which is then filled with commercial additives. Conventional eggs are safe to eat and make a good choice of protein. However, researchers and evidence seem to point towards these chickens never go outside, are unable to spread their wings, are nutritionally inferior compared to other methods where there is more space for chickens and different food. Debeaking (practice to remove part of the beak, to stop chickens from pecking each other) and forced molting (method involves withdrawing food for a week or two weeks to increase egg production, sometimes water is also withdrawn(1)) are both typically practiced.
Final thoughts when Picking Up Eggs:
The quality of our food is definitely important, and the treatment of the animals (God's creation is important). If our budget allows we should do our part to support proper treatment of all God's creations , because as they are getting closer to His design, it turns out to be healthier for us too. Although eggs costing more are not in everyone's budget, I at least want you to use your money effectively and spend money on terms that add value.
Recap of egg marketing terms that mean basically nothing:
• Hormone free
• All natural
• Antibiotic free
• All Vegetarian Feed
• Brown Eggs
Hope this helps. I know I was surprised, when I started looking this up. I thought cage free was a bigger step up, obviously I am talking abotu the minimum requirements, but unfortunately most companies do the minimum. Maybe the future regulations will impact the chickens and eggs more nutritionally. Overall there may not be as much of a difference between free-range eggs, cage-free eggs, and conventional eggs, the biggest jump appears at the pasture-raised level. Whether you buy conventionally raised, pasture raised eggs from the store or the farmers market, eggs are typically a healthy addition to your diet.
Hope you have an Eggscellent day!