When looking at the nutritional content of eggs, it is important to consider what the hens are fed as well as how they are treated. The terms “organic” and “free range” can be very misleading. Here are some tips to help you decide the best eggs to buy.
Don’t be fooled by the terms organic and free range
According to a study done by the Cornucopia Institute over 80% of all organic eggs produced are from factory farms. These farms are designed to produce large quantities of eggs at the cheapest price and the conditions are poor. Hens are placed into buildings with up to 35,000 birds cramped wall to wall. To prevent aggressive pecking behavior due to these conditions the birds are often de-beaked. This painful process involves cutting off the beaks using electrically heated blades.
Organic standards require the birds to have “access” to the outdoors. To meet these requirements a 2×2 foot doorway or small porch is placed in the building. Most birds will never see the light of day, but the label on the egg carton will read organic and free range. To see the full Cornicopia Institute report watch the video below.
Factory farmed eggs have less nutritional content
The natural diet of chickens is grass, seeds, bugs, worms and other vegetation. When chickens are allowed to freely roam in sunny pastures, they are able to eat their natural diet. Factory farmed chickens are fed a more unnatural diet with cheap feed consisting of corn and soy. It should come as no surprise that chickens that are stressed by cramped, filthy conditions and fed inferior food will produce eggs with less nutritional value.
Studies done by the website Mother Earth News comparing factory farmed eggs to pasture raised eggs reveal that pasture raised eggs contain:
• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta-carotene
Since pasture raised hens are out in the sun their eggs also contain 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D.
Where to find pasture raised eggs
The best place to find pasture-raised eggs is at your local farmers market or food co-op. Some grocery stores are also beginning carry them as well. For a list of local farmer’s markets click here.
If you cannot buy pasture-raised eggs, make sure you are buying good quality organic eggs from a reputable farm. The Cornucopia Institute has created an egg scorecard. They rate egg producers with a score from 1-5 with 5 being the best. How do your eggs rate? Click here to see the scorecard.
In conclusion, remember that cheap means cheap. If you are buying bottom of the barrel factory farmed eggs, they may be coming from a chicken that is stressed, painfully de-beaked and fed cheap food with fillers. The result is a less nutritious egg, but more importantly a potentially suffering chicken. If you are buying cheap eggs from caged chickens watch the video below to see what the life of these chickens is like.