What Are the Healthiest Eggs To Buy?

what's the healthiest egg? free-range? organic? cage-free? the answer may surprise you! thesproutingseed.com #healthiesteggThe incredible, edible egg.

I remember hearing this slogan on TV when I was a kid. After years of eggs getting a bad rap, this song was part of the campaign to assure the public that eggs are good for you.

Now that we know eggs are indeed healthy (sources below), the confusion seems to lie with what type of egg to purchase. Out of all the labels, what are the healthiest eggs to buy?

Cage free. Certified Organic. Omega-3 enriched. Free-Range. Pastured. Conventional eggs. Vegetarian diet.

With all these choices, no wonder we are all so confused! Unfortunately, a lot of the egg labels are a scam and just a waste of money. Yep. Even the brown eggs in the carboard container with the reassuring “free-range” label plastered on the front. The truth is, if you bought them in a grocery store, you are probably purchasing nutritionally inferior eggs–even though you may be paying an arm and a leg! There is such a thing as a superiorly healthy egg that is worth your money, though!

Egg Labels Defined

The Ones That Aren’t Really Worth Your Money

Free-Range: Usually free-range hens live in barns and are uncaged. They have some access to the outdoors, but the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access is variable. Because the USDA has inadequately defined “free-range” to mean “allowed access to the outside” and there is no requirement for quality or time outside, producers can interpret this in many ways. Access may only be leaving small doors open on the barns. The hens may or may not ever go through these small doors to reach the outside. If they do make it outside, there is no guarantee the hens will touch good pasture. They may only end up on concrete and never supplement their diets with worms, insects, green plants, etc. There are no restrictions on what the birds may be fed.

Cage-Free: The egg-laying hens live inside barns. While they are not caged, they usually are not allowed outside. By not being in a cage, they can walk, nest and spread their wings, but they cannot supplement their diets with seeds, insects, worms and green plants. Cage-free eggs bought from the grocery store generally have the same nutritional value as conventional grocery store eggs.

Vegetarian-Fed: The bird feed does not contain animal byproducts. Animal byproducts are not a natural source of food for chickens.

Basically, all of these labels mean nothing (nutritionally speaking) except that you pay more money.

Omega-3 enriched: The hens are fed a diet enriched with Omega-3. This enriched diet causes the eggs they lay to be higher in Omega-3. While the nutritional values are not nearly as good as pastured eggs, this option is better than conventional eggs.

Certified Organic: The birds are fed an organic, vegetarian diet that does not contain antibiotics or pesticides. Hens have access to the outdoors, but generally live inside large barns. There is not a requirement for the amount of time spent out doors, or for the quality of the outdoor environment. Access to the outdoors is limited and the hens may seldomly, if ever, have the chance to forage plants and bugs. Because the birds haven’t been exposed to antibiotics or pesticides, this is a better choice than conventional eggs, but the nutritional value of the egg may still be reduced.

The Healthiest Eggs To Buy

what are the healthiest eggs to buy? the answer may surprise you. thesproutingseed.comPastured eggs (from a local farmer): the birds are out on the pasture and eat a natural diet—made up of all kinds of seeds, green plants, insects and worms. Usually grain or laying mash supplements the diet. Hens are allowed access to pasture, but also have a pen to house them and protect them from predators.

According to a Dallas chicken farmer, some type of grain supplement in the diet is inevitable due to the foraging nature of chickens. If they are on a farm, they will find some grain to eat, even if it was meant for another animal. 

Not only are pastured eggs from a local farmer more humane towards the birds, pastured chickens make much healthier eggs!

Mother Earth News compared pastured eggs with commercial eggs (that you would find at a grocery store) and found pastured eggs may 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

You can even see a major difference in appearance as well. Pastured eggs are deeper and richer in color compared to commercial eggs. The shells of pastured eggs are much harder to break.

That’s pretty incredible, isn’t? Well, it is the incredible, edible egg! In our family, the nutritional value and humane treatment of the birds makes the pastured egg worth its weight in gold.

Not sure where to find pastured eggs from local farmers?

Check out your local farmer’s market or check out www.eatwild.com or www.localharvest.com.

Don’t want to pay more than a few bucks for eggs?

Raise chickens and gather the eggs yourself!! Then you don’t have to pay anything except for the cost of caring for the chickens! This is a goal of mine. :)

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what's the healthiest egg? the answer may suprise you thesproutingseed.com

Sources

Eggs are healthy for you (1, 2 and 3)

Egg label definitions (1, 2)

Photo Source: (1)

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Comments

  1. Yesterday Scott had mixed his morning eggs in a drinking glass, but I didn’t realize this. I asked him, “Are you drinking fresh squeeze carrot juice?” Now, those are some good eggs! Orange = Yum, Yum. I was horrified in November when I was in the States and made eggs one morning with the eggs my parents had bought. They were light yellow. Gag!

    • Allison Jordan says:

      Isn’t that crazy?! I was SHOCKED when we moved back to the States. Also, butter. I couldn’t believe how white butter is compared to the fresh butter I bought in Hungary.

  2. I agree, pastured eggs are the best!! I used to buy them all the time with my UA produce share but we put that on hold while Robert’s in Austin and I miss them.

    And don’t tell Robert (or Asta) that I secretly want my own chicken coop as well! ;)

    • Allison Jordan says:

      Staci, I want a chicken coop too! That idea was vetoed, but I’m working on it. :)

      • No veto, joint decision based on our lack of time and hatred of chicken poop. : ) Maybe some day, my dear.

  3. great post with helpful info….i think i’ve been scammed!! ;)

    • Allison Jordan says:

      There is something about a cardboard box and the words cage and free that still make me feel good. :) I’m right there with ya.

  4. I haven’t found a local farmer yet in my area and the farm market is only open middle or may to Oct. Right now I buy egg land cage free veg fed eggs. Am I getting any nutrients out of these or am I just wasting my $$$. Until I can find a farm and the farm markets open what do you recommend?

  5. I order organic eggs from Azure Standard since they’re not dipped in chlorine. I love the eggs from a local farmer but his grain isn’t GMO free :( It’s awesome to drive out to the farm and see these beautiful brown hens walking around all over the place. It just costs too much for him to buy organic grain. It’s so difficult to balance it all out with our food supply right now. How much room does one need to have your own chickens? Anyone know how much organic supplemental feed costs? Even my husband’s interested but we live in town… and have a dog… but have a decent size yard and I hear roosters in our neighborhood so people do have chickens around here.

    • Allison Jordan says:

      Wow. You’ve really invested a lot of time and energy into this! That’s awesome. There are so many variables, aren’t there? It’s crazy to me. In terms of raising your own chickens, I don’t know. It is something I would like to do, but haven’t yet. On my facebook page we’ve had a lot of discussions about it. There is so much wisdom to glean from other readers–I will throw your question up there. :)

    • kalikai farm says:

      Kim,

      I keep hens (and the best rooster in the world!), and a bag of organic layer pellets or crumbles runs about $30 for 50 lbs. I have a hanging communal feeder in their coop, but I don’t need to fill it often because the girls get to roam on several acres a day, getting their own food. I probably go through a bag every couple of months.

      I have a perimeter fence around the property, allowing them freedom within while protecting them from outside predators. HOWEVER, hawks opportunistically pick them off, too, so beware. I lost a chick to one. Provide shrubs or low-branching trees for cover. My hens like the low skirts of untrimmed redwoods (or other conifers) for safety.

      • Allison Jordan says:

        Wow. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s really helpful to have a realistic idea of what it takes to raise chickens. ;) I am glad it is working so well for you.

    • Jeanmarie says:

      Find out which neighbor keeps chickens and offer to buy eggs. They may appreciate an outlet for excess eggs, if they have more than they need. Feed stores often sell customers’ eggs on consignment.

      I keep chickens and buy soy-free organic layer pellets as the base for my hens’ diet, but they are *truly* free-range, which means they are outside scratching and pecking, wandering through pastures and wherever they want to go around the farm (including into the house), eating grass, seeds, bugs, raiding the compost pile, etc. I also feed them sprouted seeds, which they are wild about, and they get some kitchen scraps as well (often via the compost pile). After 3 years I’ve built up a clientele for my excess eggs. The manager of our local natural foods coop even buys my eggs in preference to the organic eggs she sells in the store. There is nothing like fresh, truly pastured eggs.

    • Check at a local feed store for prices of chicken feed. I buy soy-free organic layer pellets for my chickens, and it’s about twice as expensive as non-organic, and a little more than organic with soy. I’m in California, and most grain in the U.S. is grown in the Midwest, so shipping costs increase our costs a lot. Prices will be very different elsewhere, so there is no universal answer.

  6. Temblor says:

    You mean there might be worms in my eggs?

    • Allison Jordan says:

      Um, no. There should never be worms in your eggs :). I do think chickens should have the chance to scratch in the dirt and find worms though!

    • Jeanmarie says:

      Worms in the diet of chickens doesn’t mean worms in the eggs. That would be from a parasitic infestation. Unfortunately, chickens can contract some parasites from eating worms that may contain those parasites.

  7. Or go vegan and eat the healthiest eggs of them all…none.

    • This ignorant comment reveals a sad, misbegotten disconnect from Nature, typical of many city-dwelling vegans who don’t actually interact with farm animals and have a concept of the world in their heads that doesn’t match reality.

      Eggs are a gift from the chicken and are very nourishing, at least if the hen has a good diet. They will be laid almost daily by a hen from the time she is 4-5 months old for at least several years. Laying is not an optional activity for healthy hens. If you don’t think anyone should ever eat any eggs, what will become of those eggs? Throw them away? That would turn a healthful food into a waste disposal problem. (At least feed them to some lucky dogs.) Few people are going to keep chickens just as pets without eating the eggs. If egg-eating (and presumably chicken-eating) did in fact decline drastically, chickens would no longer be kept, no longer be bred, and would eventually die out. If you love having chickens in this world like I do, you should eat eggs. If you want a cheap source of protein, healthful saturated fat and cholesterol, and vital pre-formed Vitamin A and Vitamin D, you should eat eggs.

  8. Raising chickens is not difficult. I started raising a few hens in the city and when I moved out to the country I went wild. I now have 30+. I suppose raising chickens isn’t for everyone but you’d have to have a passion for the nature of the bird and they will give you delicious eggs. Coops needn’t be smelly either if one knows to use the deep litter method. Hens love to keep spotlessly clean so they depend on us for providing the places for dust bathing and good quality food, grit, water and foraging. Chickens are opportunity feeders and will eat everything from plants to insects and even dead things. Last of all, it costs a lot as you may have read from above to give hens organic food. People around me sell their eggs for $2 a dozen and for my largest box I sell them for $4. I sell more eggs because my hens are truly free range and the eggs taste great! I’m in rural south eastern Wisconsin in case anyone wants to stop by.

  9. I buy eggs from a local farm but their shells are way easier to break than the store ones… Are their chickens not getting the right nutrients in their diet? Should I be looking for eggs from another source?

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