The Million Dollar Question to purchasing an egg!
Brown eggs, organic eggs, pasture-raised eggs, white eggs– Why are there so many choices to buying a simple egg. Have you ever spent more than five minutes in front of the egg section in the grocery store, wondering what the difference is between a brown organic egg or a white pasture-raised egg? If you have, don’t feel bad. Many people are confused by the various types, sizes, and colors of eggs.
My wife and I were at a local grocery store and we found ourselves in a heated discussion about what eggs are “best” to purchase. Our definition for “best” was a discussion around nutrition. Just like you, we want to buy food that provides our body’s with much-needed nutrition so we can have a long, healthy productive life.
We were bombarded with several labels, but were drawn to the ones that offered Fresh Eggs (Conventional), Organic, Free Range, Pasture Raised, Cage Free, or Omega-3 Enriched. As we debated each brand, and commenced to Googling and wikipediaing each term, we opted to ask ourselves the following million dollar question:
Is the Egg GOOD?
I am assuming that if you are reading this post you already know that an egg (a good egg) provides a healthy source of protein, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. I say “a good egg” because the quality of the egg has everything to do with the quality of the hens diet. There is a saying, “you are what you eat”. This statement is partially true. I prefer the statement, “you are what you eat, what you eat”, and it is absolutely shocking to know how the nutrition of a chicken can ultimately affect the quality of an egg.
But before I get into that, I wanted to give you a bit of context on how nutrient rich an egg– a good egg– really is.
How good is a good egg? Extremely Good for your body! The yolk of a good egg is rich in choline which is a complex B vitamin. Complex B Vitamins are critical nutrients for all things mind-related: mood, memory and even migraines can benefit from the B’s. Choline is associated with improved neurological function and has been shown to reduce inflammation. When choline in egg yolks are metabolized, it is broken down into bethane which produces healthy body hormones such as serotonin, norephinephrine and dopamine. This is all happy news for your brain. Egg yolks have also been proven to protect against vision loss because of the good levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. Egg yolks are also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids which have been linked to improved metal health.
Now we know that a good egg is definitely good for the body. But which egg carton has GOOD Eggs? Let’s find out:
If I had to give this egg a score on a scale from 1-10, 10 being the best, I would rate it a 1! But, why so low? Conventional eggs are laid by hens that are kept in crowded, filthy, stress-filled conditions. These chickens are fed cheap, inexpensive, micro & macro nutrient depleted grains, pumped with antibiotics. Because of the deplorable conditions, the chickens’ internal stress hormones are constantly activated which ultimately have a negative effect on the quality of eggs produced. Nutrient levels in conventional eggs are comparably low and therefore cannot meet our standards of a good egg.
Cage Free sounds like it might meet our standards of a good egg, but really what does it mean?Cage Free does not mean that the chicken is free to roam outside. It means that the chicken is not kept in a cage. In fact, there are many cases where chickens are kept in tight, crowded, filthy warehouses where the chickens never see the light of day. Cage Free also does not address the quality of food that is fed to the chicken . Cage Free chickens can be fed foods that are full of hormones, antibiotics or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), hence, a bad egg nevertheless (my wife if motioning thumbs down).
Free Range is a more mysterious term and can be equally confusing as the rest. But the term “Free Range” does not at all regulate space. In the case of Free Range, the chicken can be kept in crowded, filthy warehouse-type structures and only have access to a small enclosed area (outside, but attached to the warehouse) to range freely. For example, an egg that came from a Free Range, can legally be jam-packed into a 300,000 sq-ft warehouse and only be allowed to Free Range in an attached space of 2,000 sq-ft. Yes, I know, this is totally ridiculous. Again, just like the cage free chickens, the chicken’s food can be laced with hormones, antibiotics, or GMO’s. The quality of the egg is not guaranteed to be optimum. No bueno!
Omega-3 Enriched eggs sound great and may be identified as a “good egg”. Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. It has also become a popular vitamin to reduce the risk of heart disease.
However, a few important questions arise: What are the living conditions of the chickens? Are the chickens kept in crowded, poop-filled cages? Or is there sufficient free range space to roam and feed? Does the food source contain hormones, antibiotics and/or GMO’s? It is important to get these other questions answered before purchasing an Omega-3 enriched egg. The jury is still out on Omega-3 Enriched eggs.
When an egg is certified organic, you can be assured that the chicken that produced the egg was not fed hormones, steroids, antibiotics or GMO’s (according to the USDA National Organic Program). Finally, a GOOD egg! However, the food source of the chicken is still a huge factor to note. Chickens naturally eat a diet that consists of various species of grasses, herbs, weeds, bugs, etc. This wild diet is not necessarily duplicated in closely monitored and controlled organic food sources. Theoretically, a chicken could be fed a diet of organic grain during its entire life span. A diet of organic grain, however, is not the natural diet of a chicken and therefore would yield an inferior egg, i.e. a bad egg. Additionally, certified organiclabelling does not ensure that the chicken is treated humanely. The conditions (except Cage Free) can be very crowded and cruel acts like cutting the beaks of the chickens are common practices. I’d hate for someone to cut off my lips for the sake of being stamped Organic.
A well maintained pasture provides the natural diet for a chicken in pasture raised facilities. Chickens have access to organic grasses, herbs, weeds and bugs that are the foundation of a healthy chicken and egg. Please note that the emphasis is well maintained pasture. A pasture with overgrown grass, weeds full of pesticides, hormones, GMO’s and other “non organic” sources of contaminants will produce a chicken and egg that is unhealthy.
Check out the PBS produced video titled, “The Story of an Egg” for more information:
Drum Roll Please…
My wife and I have decided that a Good Egg is an egg that is Organic and Pasture Raised. BOTH CONDITIONS MUST BE MET before it’s a welcomed egg in our house. Unfortunately this type of egg is difficult to find and is not the norm. But, finding a dozen GOOD EGGS is all well worth the time, money and energy to ensure my family receives a balanced, nutritional diet. Ironically Organic and Pasture Raised is the original state of chickens before industrialized food production spun out of control.
When you ask the million dollar question when purchasing eggs, you can be assured that the chicken has access to a schmorgesborg of bugs, insects and wild plants such as purslane, dock, nettle, ground ivy, white clover, chicory, wide leaf plantain, wild carrot, orchard grass, fescue, dandelion, narrow leaf plantain found on the pasture. you are receiving top nutrition and getting the best value for your dollar. Your brain and body will love you.
According to a 2007 study published by Mother Earth News, Organic Pasture Raised eggs, i.e. GOOD EGGS contained 2/3 more times of vitamin A, 7 times more beta carotene, 2 times more omega 3 fatty acids and 3 times more vitamin E than conventional gs.
The choice is clear. Choose a GOOD EGG that comes from an Organic, Pasture Raised chicken. Your body, mind, and wife, will all be happy.
Sources and References
The Omega Diet by Atemis P. Simopooulous and Jo Robinson
“HeadChamp.com” is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical advice.