Egg shopping can be overwhelming, especially when you look down the dairy aisle at 10+ varieties of eggs. While last week we determined eggs are a healthy choice for our diet, this week we will go into the different labels, marketing and everything you need to know about buying eggs.
1. Brown or white eggs? Which ones are better?
The answer is both! Both colors are good nutritious choices and one is not better than the other. The color and size of an egg is determined by the breed of hen. There are even other colors of eggs such as cream, blue, green, or even speckled! As far as price, brown eggs typically cost more to produce and therefore are more expensive in stores.
2. Organic? Cage Free? Free Range? Pasture Raised? What does each mean? Which is better?
Below are some definitions to help decode the label:
USDA Organic certification is commonly found on labels. This label requires hens to be cage free or free range and fed an organic all-vegetarian diet. There is no regulation on size or quality of outdoor space so conditions can vary widely upon producers.
Free-Range hens are uncaged and have access to the outdoors. This term is regulated by USDA. However, this term can be deceiving as there aren’t specific requirements on the quality of the area or amount of time outdoors.
Cage Free is a USDA regulated term meaning hens do not live in cages. Conditions again can vary and does not guarantee adequate space and light.
Pasture-raised hens that have been raised with access to outdoor space and have access to natural diet of plants. However, pasture-raised is unregulated by the USDA and there are no standards to this term.
Natural, no hormones, no antibiotics on the labels are unregulated terms. Federal regulations have banned the use of growth hormones since 1950. Labels that say this are just for marketing as none of the farmers are using these.
Certified Humane is a program developed to certify farmers adhere to certain standards by satisfactory application and inspection. Certified Humane puts its own regulations and guidelines on the terms above requiring specifics on feed, water, housing space, and space and time outdoors.
3. Do these conditions affect the quality of the eggs?
Aside from having more humane conditions for the hens, being outdoors and in the sunlight can also increase the vitamin D content (and?) quality in the eggs.
Confusing right? Some terms are simply used for marketing and other terms can be USDA regulated but not have any specific guidelines to follow. As far as complete nutrition, all egg choices are good, containing the same nutritional content. For those looking for hens fed organic grains with limited pesticide exposure, I would recommend looking for the USDA Organic certification. For those who care how hens are raised and the quality of their living conditions, I’d recommend looking for Certified Humane certificate on the carton. This certification guarantees specific humane regulations are met and upheld by farmers.
For more information on egg labeling and common terms, see the egg nutrition center.
Want to learn more about what you put in our body? Check out our Invictus Boston Nutrition program!