As last week’s blog started the conversation about eggs and cholesterol, this week’s post will dive into if all eggs are created equal. As mentioned previously, this information is taken from an article called The Truth About Eggs: How To Tell The Good From The Bad by Health Realizations.
Some things that can affect the quality of the egg include production methods and feed for the chickens, which can drastically differ with different brands. The majority of eggs produced in the United States (95% or more) come from giant factory farms housing 75,000 laying hens or more. These major industrial operations result in poor conditions for the chickens and inferior-quality eggs as a result.
According to the American Egg Board (AEB), most facilities keep their chickens entirely indoors in crowded conditions and feed them genetically modified soy and pesticide-laden grains, whereas their natural diet includes seeds, plants, insects, and worms naturally foraged from pasture.
Eggs from hens raised on pasture compared to eggs from commercial farms were found to contain 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3’rds more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene (2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project). A separate study found that over 23% of hens from caged farms tested positive for salmonella compared to just over 4% in organic flocks and 6.5% in free-range flocks. It also found that salmonella was much more common in large flocks, and with 30,000 birds or more having over 4 times the average compared to smaller flocks.
So is organic better? I personally buy only organic eggs, but a new report from the Cornucopia Institute reveal that many organic farming operations are actually very similar to the large-scale industrial factories. Many “organic” companies only feed the chickens with organic feed, so you must look for a USDA-certified organic logo which follows federal organic regulations which requires access to the outdoors and smaller flock numbers. The study also found that many of the family-scale farms were adhering to organic standards and allow hens access to pasture. For more details, go to www.cornucopia.org, but it seems to mostly be American brands.
So for the most nutritious and most humanely produced eggs, buy from a small local farmer either directly or through a farmer’s market or food coop near you.