The Incredible Edible Egg

chicken

So it’s time to talk eggs.  Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years, but as a part of a well-balanced diet, eggs are nutritious. At least they were before we started messing with them.  In my mind, it just makes sense.  God gave us eggs, and people have been eating them for hundreds of years.  It’s only in the last 40 years that we would have thought to separate out the egg whites (egg white omelets?  What’s the point?) and throw away the yolks — the part with the most nutrients.  And don’t get me STARTED on artificial egg substitutes.  Even before I got on my traditional food kick, I refused to buy fake eggs.  Blech.

As far as the kind of eggs to buy, this is what I’ve deduced from compiling information from several resources:  Ideally, eggs from pastured chickens are the best. This is because pastured chickens are roaming the barnyard like they were meant to, eating bugs, worms, and grains while soaking up the sun and all of its wonderful vitamin D.

You’d think it would be as simple as that, but it’s not.  There are many misleading labels on egg cartons in the grocery store.  For example, don’t be swayed by the egg cartons that say “all vegetarian fed.”  That means those chickens have never seen the light of day, otherwise they would be eating bugs and worms like chickens were born to do.  At least, vegetarian-fed chickens haven’t been fed ground up animal by-products like conventional grocery store eggs, but they still aren’t the optimum choice.

“Cage-free” is another nebulous classification.  That usually means that they’ve been contained in a barn without access to the out of doors, and often their beaks and/or wings are clipped so they don’t hurt one another.  Now, does that sound like a healthy chicken to you?

“Omega-3 eggs” are from hens that have been fed flax seed and fish oil to increase their levels of omega-3s.  Whatever.  I prefer to add flax seed to my granola and take my fish oil capsules and buy my eggs from hens eating their traditional diets, but that’s me.  Also, according to this article by Dr. Mercola, Omega-3 eggs are less healthy for you.  He says this:

Typically, the animals are fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Additionally, omega-3 eggs are far more perishable than non-omega-3 eggs so they don’t stay fresh nearly as long.

Then of course conventional eggs are the ones from chickens that are crammed into small, stacked cages, eating cheap soy and corn-based feed mixtures that are full of additives.

“Pastured eggs” are from chickens raised in their natural environments, but they are hard to find.  Usually you have to know a farmer.

So.  Here’s my Good-Better-Best scenario for eggs.

Good: Eggs are good for you.  If all you can find or afford are the conventional grocery store variety, eat them anyway.

Better: “Vegetarian-Fed” or “Cage-Free” or “Free Range” organic eggs.  At least they haven’t been fed animal by-products.  That’s something, at least.  According to Dr. Mercola, “If you have to purchase your eggs from a commercial grocery store, I would advise getting free-range organic.”

BEST: Pastured chicken eggs — eggs from chickens who are allowed to roam around outside, pecking at the grass, eating insects and worms.  According to this article, pastured eggs are richer in nutrients (such as vitamin D, beta carotene, and those omega-3 fats that are so good for us) than their conventional counterparts.  Also, it appears that they may be lower in cholesterol and saturated fat.  And whether or not they are any healthier, they simply taste better.  I am happy to support fresh, local foods whenever possible.  To find free-range pasture farms, try your local health food store or you can get recommendations from EatWild.com and LocalHarvest.com.

Don’t Do It! Omega-3 eggs are a racket.  Don’t waste your money on them.  Also, please don’t eat powdered eggs or egg substitutes, and for goodness sakes, don’t ditch the yolks.  As with all good things, eat eggs in moderation and enjoy!

As always, these are my opinions based on a very limited (but growing daily) amount of research and my own gut instincts.  Do your own research and decide what is best for your family.

Photo Credit: protohiro

**If you are concerned about cholesterol, I think this article by Cheeseslave is verrrrry interesting.  Incidentally, I made the baked soaked oatmeal to which she refers, and it is delicious.  At least, I think so; unfortunately my kids aren’t so convinced.  At any rate, if you struggle with cholesterol and it is a concern of yours, try it!  What do you have to lose?

On the other hand, I’m not so convinced that cholesterol is something to fear.  Read this article and tell me what you think.