If 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.|
According to the Egg Nutrition Center, although cage-free and free
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.