Which Eggs to Buy?

eggs,aracauna eggs,brown eggs versus white eggs,cage-free eggs,free range eggs,lutein eggs,omega-3 enhanced eggs,organic eggs,united egg producers certified eggs,vegetarian eggs,how are eggs producedIf you’ve decided you want to get in on the health benefits related to eggs, you may be wondering which eggs are the best ones to buy because there are so many choices—aracauna eggs, white eggs, brown eggs, organic eggs, cage-free eggs, free range eggs, lutein eggs, omega-3 enhanced eggs, pasturized shell eggs, United Egg Producers Certified eggs, and vegetarian eggs. You may also want to know if there are nutritional differences between eggs, and how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades eggs. So, to help you, I’ve tried to unscramble the information, boil it down, and serve it sunnyside up (just a little yolk humor)!

Egg Type and Production Methods

   

 Egg Type Production Methods
Aracauna These bluish-green eggs are native to South America, and, although their nutritional content is similar to the generic brown or white egg, their cholesterol content is higher.
Brown or White There is no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs. According to the Egg Nutrition Center, the only reason there is a color difference is because white hens lay white eggs and red hens lay brown eggs.
Cage-Free Hens that produce cage-free eggs live indoors but are not raised in cages.
Free Range Hens that produce free range eggs are not raised in cages and are allowed access to the outdoors as weather permits.  
Lutein Birds given marigold extracts—which are high in lutein—help to produce lutein eggs, and, apparently, lutein in eggs is better absorbed than lutein available in other lutein sources. For more information on lutein sources read The Eyes Have it When You Eat Your Greens.
Omega-3 Enhanced Hen layers are fed flax, fish oils, and marine algae so as to increase the Omega-3 content of their eggs.
Organic Standards for organic eggs were set in 2002, and hens who produce organic eggs meet organic guidelines set by the USDA. Additionally, organic eggs are also produced from hens free of hormones, including growth hormones.
Pasturized Shell These eggs are used by consumers who want raw eggs for salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, or ice cream, and, so, these eggs are heat treated to destroy any potential bacteria.
United Egg Producers (UEP) Certified Scientists from various U.S. government agencies, the U.S. Humane Association, and academia came together and devised guidelines and standards to ensure UEP egg layers are raised in “humane conditions with attention to living environment, health care, and treatment.” Producers are audited annually by a third party to retain their certifications, and they must meet set standards.
Vegetarian This seems to be an oxymoron, but apparently vegetarian eggs are produced by hens who eat food free of any animal by-products.

 

 

Informational Note:

According to the Egg Nutrition Center, although cage-free and free
range hens actually have more room to move around, they
have a shorter life span than birds raised in large laying facilities.
The reason for this is because laying facilities are designed for the
welfare of the birds and provide an optimal environment—feed, water,
temperature, light, laying space, and safety—that encourage hens
to produce. Additionally, because birds tend to peck, fight,
and injure one another there is less likelihood the birds
will be injured in laying facilities. This sounds reasonable to me
as I was raised on a farm with chickens, and, while I understand the desire
for humanely-raised produce, I also understand the nature of chickens.

 

 

Besides the type of eggs available, there is also the size of the egg—jumbo (30 ounces), extra large (27 ounces), large (24 ounces), medium (21 ounces), small (18 ounces), and peewee (15 ounces), and the quality of the egg. The USDA  determines the quality of eggs by grading them, and the grade has nothing to do with the size of the egg. Grades are based on the interior quality of the egg, and there are three grades: AA, A, and B.

U.S. Grade AA eggs are considered the finest eggs. The whites of these eggs should be thick and firm, and the yolks high and round. Grade AA eggs should also be free from defects and have clean, unbroken shells. U.S. Grade A eggs are different in that they have a reasonably firm whites, and Grade B eggs have thinner whites than the Grade A eggs. Grade B yolks can also be flatter and wider and the shells slightly stained. The USDA rates Grade AA and A eggs for frying and poaching, whereas Grade B are considered best for baking or general cooking.

Eggs are a good source of protein, vitamin A, riboflavin, and other valuable vitamins and minerals; however eggs are also a source of saturated fat and cholesterol. One large yolk contains 60 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 213 milligrams of cholesterol. The egg white in comparison contains just 15 calories. So, while you can enjoy eggs poached, fried, boiled, scrambled, shirred, and deviled, now that you’ve learned the hard boiled facts, perhaps the next time you pick out your nutritive dozen, you’ll give it just a little more thought.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Geri,
    Thanks for writing. Yours is the first egg blog I’ve seen that actually goes into breed differences! Another egg type your readers may be interested in is “Animal Welfare Approved.” We are a new accreditation earned by pasture-based livestock farmers, and have the most stringent welfare standards of any third-party certifier, according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). This is a program that is free to farmers, and gives them a way to differentiate themselves in the marketplace as going beyond labels like “cage-free” or “natural”–neither of which require pasture access. Even “free-range” does not necessarily mean the birds were raised ON pasture–a simple door at the end of a building will do for this label. Conversely, Animal Welfare Approved farms are audited annually to ensure pasture-based management and adherence to rigorous standards. The New York Times recently called our program “utopia” for chickens. For more information or to read our complete standards, visit (www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org).

    To respond to the Egg Nutrition Center’s position that conventional laying facilities are designed for the welfare of the birds, I respectfully disagree.
    Chickens peck, fight, and cannibalize one another when they are stressed and crowded. I encourage you to visit a farm that raises their birds in small flocks, on pasture–the difference in both hen welfare and egg quality is astounding.

    Again, thanks so much for writing on such an important subject.

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