Eggs are an essential and integral ingredient that we’ve eaten for thousands of years. From omelets to custards to deviled eggs to huevos rancheros and everything in-between, including all those precious baked confections we love (gluten-free pancakes, anyone?) eggs are so much more than just sunny side up. In fact, this humble, healthy and versatile ingredient contains low carbs, and high protein. I know what you’re thinking, “tell me something I don’t know.” You got it! We all know and love eggs, but sometimes deciding which eggs to buy can be a headache. Now we’ve got the choice of organic, cage-free, antibiotic and hormone-free, large, extra large, brown, white… so, how do we go about deciphering egg labels? With so many cartons boasting a variety of claims, which one do we choose? Let’s crack the egg-shell and get to the yoke of what each term means.
These days, most egg cartons contain a USDA Organic label. What does it mean? Ultimately, the USDA’s Natural Organic Program certifies which foods are organic. Regarding eggs, this label has to do with what the hens are eating. USDA Organic eggs come from uncaged hens that are fed an all-vegetarian, organic diet. Sounds great, right? Only one problem… hens are omnivores who love bugs… not exactly vegetarian after all.
Cage-Free vs. Free Range/Free-Roaming
When it comes to the conditions of the hens, these labels have to do with their living quarters. Cage-free means the hens are, as you guessed, not living in a cage. However, this doesn’t mean they get to roam green pastures and soak in some Vitamin D. That’s the difference between cage-free eggs and free-range/free-roaming eggs. The latter have access to the outdoors. If you’re concerned about buying humane eggs, look for the “Pastured”, “Certified Humane” or “Animal Welfare Approved” labels. These ultimately mean that the eggs come from hens with access to ample outdoor space, and eat a diet natural to their needs, including plants and insects.
Psst… here’s the truth: It’s actually illegal to add hormones to chickens and hens. So… this label straight up means nothing. It’s just a fancy marketing tactic to get you to pay extra, when in fact, all eggs are hormone-free. Now that you know what’s cracking with this term, add that extra coin to your rainy day savings.
Brown Eggs vs. White Eggs
Here it comes… another truth bomb in 3…2…1… brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs. In fact, they’re no different because the color of the egg is related to the breed of the bird, not what they eat or their health status.
This term refers to the quality of the egg, and most eggs will have a Grade A, which means the shells don’t have stains, and the yolks are defect-free.
Antibiotics are not commonly used in hen-laying eggs, so essentially this is another misleading claim that holds little weight.
Why You Should Only Buy Pastured Eggs
So, now that we’ve broken down the terms, which eggs should you be buying and eating? Pastured eggs are by far the most nutritional option. In fact, pastured eggs have twice the Vitamin E and omega-3’s than regular eggs and 38% more Vitamin A. Based on the nutritional benefits and higher quality of life of pasture raised hens, it’s easy to see why you should only buy Pastured eggs.
Looking to branch out from scrambled eggs? Craving egg recipes that are delicious and unique? I’ve got you covered with healthy and internationally inspired recipes from my cookbook, Wandering Palate!
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