What Stickers Should I Be Looking For
The most rigorous animal welfare certification program when it comes to eggs is Animal Welfare Approved. Their logo is a white sun with blue rays over a green pasture:
As the Humane Society of the United States explains, AWA has the highest standards of any private animal welfare auditing program for eggs. It prohibits producers from beak cutting, in which farmers remove part of newborn hens’ beaks to prevent pecking, and from starving birds to force them to molt, another unfortunately common practice. But AWA-approved eggs can be hard to come by. There aren’t any stores selling AWA eggs within a 15 mile radius of Washington, DC, for example.
A second-best option is Certified Humane, which bans forced molting but not beak cutting. Both AWA and Certified Humane free range require outdoor access, for better or worse . Certified Humane is a lot easier to find in the grocery store, with brands like Nellie’s and Open Nature making the cut. The logo is pretty easy to spot:
“American Humane Certified” and “Food Alliance Certified” offer similar protections as Certified Humane. “United Egg Producers Certified” is a much weaker certification it bans forced molting but allows for hens to be kept in cages. “Pasture-raised” means much the same thing as “free range” labels. And a lot of common labels tell you nothing at all about chicken treatment: vegetarian-fed, natural, farm fresh, fertile, omega-3 enriched, pasteurized, etc.
Dha Is More Important Than Ala
The main difference between these two omega-3 fatty acids is that our body can directly use DHA.
However, ALA is only a precursor to the omega-3 acids DHA and EPA.
What this means is that our body needs to convert ALA into DHA and EPA to be able to use it.
Given this, its important to note that the successful conversion of ALA into DHA is very unreliable
- ALA to DHA conversion rate: 0-9%
- ALA to EPA conversion rate: 8-21%
In other words, we cannot use most of the ALA we consume, so it is a poor source of omega-3.
If youre planning on buying omega-3 eggs, look for eggs with a high DHA content rather than ALA.
You should be able to see these values listed on the packaging.
Which One Is Better
According to the USDA, free-range and cage-free eggs specifically denote the environment in which the laying hens were housed inand thats it. At present, the USDA says it does not have definitive scientific data stating a nutritional difference in egg nutrition, due to hen housing. Its up to you to decide, however, how important the hens living conditions are to you. To find out which egg producers truly treat their hens well, you should do a bit of research.
One more thing to note: If you see a label that says pasture-raised, the birds must be placed on an actual pasture with living vegetation for six hours each day, according to the Humane Society. That said, pasture-raised eggs are not regulated by the USDA and are instead given that designation by Humane Farm Animal Care and its Certified Humane program.
So, now that youve got the lowdown on your egg options, what should you do with the ones you choose? Try this secret technique for an extra-fluffy omelet.
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What Does Free Range Mean
The term free range is federally regulated, but due to the USDAs lack of detailed guidelines, third party certifiers are the gold standard when it comes to free range eggs. Without a strong third party certifier to back free range claims, these hens can be confined to screened-in porches or cement and still be considered free range. All Pete and Gerrys partner farmers follow the Humane Farm Animal Care Certified Humane Free Range standards, which are arguably the highest and most transparent of their kind. On our farms, being free range means that during most times of the day and year , our hens are free to roam outside as they please. Our free range hens have a minimum of 2 square feet per hen of pasture, and thats an average for every hen in the flock. It’s very rare for the entire flock to choose to be outside at any one time during the day most of them prefer the shade, water, feed, or social opportunities inside the barn, so the girls that feel like venturing out usually have a vast expanse of a field all to themselves to explore. When you pick up a carton of Pete and Gerrys Organic Eggs, know that the hens that laid them enjoyed:
|– Spacious, single-level barns|
So Which Eggs Are The Best Healthiest You Can Buy
In conclusion, pastured chickens that are free to run around and eat organic grass, bugs, and greens just lay a much superior egg. No egg produced in a large commercial egg factory/operation can compare. Of course, you could eat more conventional eggs to reap the same amount of nutrition, but then you are adding more calories to your diet.
Small local farmers supply fresh eggs from chicken that are raised organically in a nice environment with a large open area. You might even be lucky enough to purchase the eggs on the same day they are laid. Find a local farmer in your area that raises chickens humanely. Ask questions and learn how the chickens are raised and fed.
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Chicken Feed Feeds You Too
Many of the nutrients chickens eat find their way into the eggs you eat. That’s why knowing the chickens’ diet is important.
Did you know that chickens are natural omnivores and should be eating bugs, insects, and grubs? They are not vegetarians!
Chicken farmers may add soy and corn to their chickens’ diet, pumping them up with GMOs . These ingredients are much cheaper than a chicken’s natural diet, but they may also effect the quality and flavor of the eggs.
The reality: This is a common chicken farming environment!
Caged Vs Cage Free Egg Laying Systems
The two common types housing used in the egg laying industry are Caged and Cage Free. Up until recently, the most common style in the United States has been the caged system. This system was efficient and a proven method to produced table eggs, but because of public perception there is a move in the industry towards the cage free system.
Many food retailers across North America, Europe, and even Asia have pledged to source 100% of their eggs from cage free facilities in the next 5 to 10 years. This has created uncertainty for the egg market and among egg producers about how to successfully manage laying hens in cage free systems while maintaining profitability. Further complicating matters is the fact that the definition of cage free is somewhat unclear and differs depending on the country and regulatory or verification agency. This has left producers uncertain on how to switch to cage free housing, the system to switch to, and how to manage birds under these systems. In the US, some states have already passed laws stating the aviary systems are the only way to raise egg producing hens.
Those are a few differences and set backs with the transition of the industry to cage free laying hens.
Egg color does not affect the quality of the egg and is not a factor in the USDA quality grade standards for eggs. Eggs are sorted for color and marketed as either white or brown eggs.
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What Those Labels On Egg Cartons Actually Mean
First off, note this: 95% of eggs in the U.S. come from chickens raised in something called battery cages, reports NPR.
As many as 100,000 birds can be confined in a single warehouse, each bird with less than 67 square inches to call its own, explains Mother Earth News.
To put it in perspective, thats an area a little smaller than a MacBook.
Unable to move or spread their wings, this is where the chickens will spend their entire lives.
So. Thats our baseline.
Now, lets dive into what all those extra labels actually mean
Egg Collection And Preparation
Two dozen free-range eggs were collected from a small family farm in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and prepared as described below. For these experiments free-range hens were allowed to be in their natural environment, and their surroundings and diets were not controlled. Laying hens at the local family farm were from the following varieties Black and Grey Australorp, and Rhode Island Red. The hens spent most of their time wandering around outside, laid their eggs in a chicken coop, and went inside a large ~9.1 × 15.2 m barn at night. The diet fed to hens included vegetable peels, scraps, lay mash, leftover bread, raw goats and cows milk, grass, insects, and worms.
On the other hand, two dozen fresh, conventionally-farmed white eggs were purchased from a local grocery store in Antigonish, NS. The diet of the conventionally-farmed eggs included a commercial feed composed of a blend of grains with ~15% protein, 1.5% fat and 4.5% fibre . The eggs were selected from the back of the grocery store fridge where the freshest eggs are kept, and also where the most consistent temperature is maintained. To access the physical properties of the eggs, whole eggs were weighed and then cracked open, following which intact yolks were separated using an egg separator. The total weights of egg yolks and eggshells were also recorded, and their albumen weights were calculated by difference .
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How Does The Usda Define Free Range Eggs
Unfortunately, large-scale egg producers have exploited the USDAs weak definitions on free range chickens. In fact, the only thing thats required by the USDA to be free range is that producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.
Lets take a look.
What About Free Range
You might think “free range” means free, but think again. You might visualize a beautiful landscape of hens wandering on a bed of green grass under the sun but, in fact, “free range” is not much different from “cage free,” with the exception of a tiny door or ramp that leads to another tiny area. They must have “access” to the outdoors to be labeled free range but, with thousands of chickens confined in one area, do you think they can actually use that door?
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The Difference Between Pastured Organic And Free Range Eggs
Kim is a holistic health coach and a toxic-free lifestyle consultant. She obtained her studies from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
What exactly are free-range, cage-free, organic, or pastured eggs, and how are they different?
With so many different labels of eggs, such as organic and free range, it can get a bit confusing as to which ones taste better and which ones are healthier. And then there are the ones without any marketing claim aside from the big stamp “Jumbo Eggs.”
This article will help you understand the different labels in the supermarket.
Growing up, I thought eggs were simplyeggs. My first introduction to fresh, organic, pastured eggs was from my fiancés aunt. I picked her up from the bus station and noticed her gripping a box firmly but carefully. Of course, I was curious as to what type of goodies she brought from Vegas, her hometown. Theyre fresh eggs! My chickens had fresh eggs yesterday! I thought, You have chickens? Like, pet chickens?!And the eggs they came from your chickens?!
When we got home, we immediately fried a few and scrambled the rest. Oh my goodnesslet me tell you, I have been missing out. Of course they tasted like eggs, but with a special oomph. That night, I counted eggs instead of sheep before falling asleep.
Can you tell which yolk has more nutrients? The egg on the top is a conventional egg. The one on the bottom is a pastured egg.
Is The Price Worth It
While organic eggs may be more expensive, sometimes double the cost of commercial eggs, you do get more bang for your buck. Organic eggs cost more due to the extra expenses involved in meeting organic certification requirements but they’re more nutritious than other egg options, as the chickens are fed quality feed and live in less stressful environments. So for your health, your taste buds, the well-being of the planet, and for ethical reasons, choose organic eggs and local organic eggs, when possible.
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Outdoor Access And Recreation
Free-range chickens usually have true access to the outdoors. Theyre able to roam freely in large enclosures. They often roam along real pastures and farms. They can hunt and peck for extra food.
Some chickens actually hunt for their own food during the day. Many farmers even give them hay bales and farm equipment so they can create their own little homes and recreation areas. They like to climb on this old equipment and bathe themselves.
Egg Packaging Code And Freshness
On all USDA-graded eggs, you should see a so-called pack date and a sell-by date printed on the carton. The sell-by date is easy to read, but you may not be familiar with the Julian date system that manufacturers use for the pack date .
The pack date follows a three-digit format for example, 152 .
In this Julian system, January 1st would be printed as 001 and December 31st would be printed as 365.
So in this case, the number 152 represents June 1st .
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Meals That Really Satisfy
With only 72 calories in a single free-range egg, you can fill up with a hearty, healthy scramble at breakfast without wrecking your MyFitnessPal numbers before you leave for work.
And youll stay full until lunch, thanks to the one-two punch of protein and healthy fats that eggs offer. Can you say that about your bowl of cereal?
The Misleading Egg Labels
In grocery stores, egg cartons have many different kinds of labels, like cage-free eggs, free-range eggs, organic eggs, and pasture-raised eggsamong others.
It can be tricky, confusing, and frustrating to attempt to choose the perfect carton of eggs for your family.
Some labels specify how much space the chickens get and in which type of environment they are raised.
Most of the cartons paint a pretty picture, but determining which type of egg is actually good for you isnt really all that straightforward.
Read on to learn the differences between cage-free and free-range chickens, and what that may mean for your eggs.
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Flavor Of Fresh Eggs Vs Store Bought
If you ask anyone who eats farm fresh eggs, theyll tell you that the taste is not the same. I think farm fresh eggs have a much richer flavor.
Also, youll notice that the yolks are also a deeper yellow color. They look richer and healthier, but they taste that way too.
So if you are looking for a richer tasting egg, then you definitely need to shop with your local farmers or purchase a few hens for yourself.
So Which Eggs Should I Buy
Now that weve demystified egg labeling, one question remains: Which eggs should I buy?
My simple answer: Do everything you can to buy pasture-raised eggs.
I know theyre expensive, but theyre yummier, richer in nutrients and way better for the chickens who lay them. In my opinion, theyre absolutely worth the price.
And, as Kastel points out, Food is the absolute foundation for good health. Itll pay off in the end.
Cant afford pastured eggs? Then just buy the cheapest ones you can find.
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.
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Is One Label Of Egg Better Than Another To Purchase
Brierley Horton is a dietitian nutritionist, content creator and strategist, and avid mental health advocate. She is co-host and co-creator of the Happy Eating Podcast, a podcast that breaks down the connection between food and mental wellness. Brierley previously served as Food & Nutrition Director for Cooking Light magazine and was the Nutrition Editor at EatingWell magazine for nearly a decade. She holds a master’s degree in Nutrition Communications from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Her work regularly appears in Better Homes & Gardens, as well as EatingWell, LIVESTRONG.com, and TheKitchn, among others. Brierley is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a master’s degree in Nutrition Communications. Her graduate degree is from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
Like consumers, though, egg producers also find the landscape challenging. “It’s confusing and frustrating for egg producers,” says Kathryn McKeon, VP of Marketing at Vital Farms. When you ask which labels are the most popular, there are those that are most pervasive and also those that are most appealing to customers, she says. According to McKeon, in the last three to four years, the label cage-free has received a lot of attention as a result of restaurant chains making future promises that they’re upgrading from conventional to cage-free.