Are you completely overwhelmed by all the different claims made on egg cartons? Are you confused about which to buy? There are a lot of different kinds of eggs these days, with all sorts of different labels, so let?s break it down!
Omega 3: This means the eggs have been enriched with Omega 3 fatty acids, by way of the Hens eating flax seed or algae. Omega 3s are linked to improved heart and brain health and greater immunity. If you eat fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds or soy products, you are likely getting a greater quantity of Omega 3 fatty acids than you will find in an egg yolk, but a little extra couldn?t hurt!
Organic: USDA organic is a trustworthy label, meaning that the product is 100% certified organic. In terms of eggs, this means that the hens were fed organic feed free of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. They also must come from cage-free hens that have access to the outdoors, but there is no requirement for how much time the chickens must spend outdoors.
Cage Free: These chickens are raised indoors, without cages, and have unlimited access to food and water.
Free Range: These chickens have shelter but can go outdoors. If the package also says ?Certified Humane,? they have access to at least two square feet of outdoor space for up to six hours a day.
Pasture Raised: Hens are allowed to roam on fresh pasture. They have unlimited amount of space to forage for their own food (plants and insects). To date, pasture raised are not shown to be more nutritious than factory farmed eggs.
Vegetarian Fed (sometimes also labeled ?all natural?): Chickens are fed no animal products and usually the diet is made of corn and soybeans. Interestingly enough, this doesn?t actually mimic their true diet, as they often will naturally eat worms, larvae and bugs. However, someone who is vegetarian may prefer to buy eggs laid from chickens who did not eat animal products.
Also note that there is no difference between white or brown eggs.
As you can see, many of these claims have less to do with nutrition and more to do with ethical or environmental standards. Some of you may wish to support farmers who provide their chickens with room to roam and grow as naturally as possible. Nutritionally however, we don?t see much difference between these eggs. As a nutrition professional, I would encourage you to eat more fresh, wholesome foods and any of these eggs would fit that criteria (as opposed to fast food, frozen dinners, packaged items, canned meals, etc) and will be a great source of protein, lutein, choline, and other vitamins and minerals. Hopefully the break down of what these claims mean will allow you to make an informed decision based on your value system.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD