Sunday, October 22, 2017

Why Organic Eggs Are Not The Healthiest Eggs

If you are reading this blog, you are probably someone who invests more energy in your health and who takes care to buy higher quality foods for yourself and your family. If so, you may think that buying organic eggs is the best you can do… but there’s more! Organic eggs are really just a single step up from regular eggs.

If you see the word “organic” on a label, including eggs, you might think that the hens who laid the eggs lived in better conditions and enjoyed happier lives than their battery cage friends, but even certified organic eggs can come from birds who are subject to living in inhumane factory conditions.

Most industrial egg-laying operations get by following the minimum standards required. They are allowed to do this by simply including a small porch area attached to a two-story building where their chickens are housed, and they can call this “outdoor access.”

Certified organic eggs come from hens that are raised on hormone-free and antibiotic-free organic feed, and have “access” to outdoor areas. But with those living conditions the chickens are not at their healthiest to produce the healthiest eggs.

So What Kind of Eggs Should You Buy?

If you can’t even trust a certified organic label for eggs, which eggs can you buy? Here are some other terms used to label the various conditions under which eggs are produced and what they mean:

Cage-free: This is a loose, unregulated term describing eggs which could be from hens confined to a barn, OR from chickens with access to outdoor space. There is no specific regulation for the term cage-free and there is a big difference between these options! Cage-free egg producers are not audited by independent inspectors, unless they are also certified organic.

Many people buy cage-free eggs thinking that these hens have access to outdoor pasture, but the truth is that they usually live inside dark enclosed sheds. The chickens are free to roam around within the confined space and to stretch and spread their wings, which is a significant improvement over cage conditions, but they still don’t typically have free roaming access to outdoor pasture.

Free-range: Even though it sounds good, “free-range” doesn’t mean pasture-raised any more than “cage free” does. Free-range hens, you would think, should have access to the outside, but again, there is no regulation that guarantees how long they need to be outside, how much room they are given, or any other standards that would make them “free-range.”

Free-range hens can still be fed GMO feed, given antibiotics, and other animal by-products. They often live in overcrowded conditions, and they may or may not have access to more comfortable nests and perches.

Omega-3 Enhanced: Omega-3 enhanced eggs come from chickens that consume significant amounts of flax, which contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Most omega-3 enhanced egg laying hens in battery cages. The amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in these eggs is unregulated and can be quite variable.

Pasture-raised: Authentic free-range eggs come from hens raised on grassy pastures. These eggs are visibly more nutritious than eggs obtained from cage-free, or confined environments. Free-range producers are not audited by third parties unless the eggs are also certified organic so make sure you talk to your supplier about the eggs, but pasture-raised would be your best bet for the best eggs ever.

The color, flavor and texture of a pasture-raised egg is distinctively noticeable, and due to high amounts of Vitamin A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, beta carotene, choline, and loads of omega 3 fatty acids, a pasture-raised egg is a true superfood. If you’ve never eaten an egg from a hen raised on sunshine, bugs and grass, then you are in for a treat!



Note that some eggs are labelled “pasteurized” and this means something different from pastured. Pasteurized eggs have been treated to eliminate bacteria such as salmonella so they can be eaten raw.

If you are not sure how the eggs you buy rate, use the Organic Egg Brand Scorecard to learn more about the source of eggs available to you and to help you choose a healthier, and more humanely raised egg!