Your Egg Buying Cheat Sheet!

Photo: the Happy Egg Co's truly happy hens!

I'll admit it- walking into the supermarket and standing in front of the egg shelf is a daunting task (yes, even to me!)

Rows and rows of eggs line the shelf, each touting a something more important than the next. Added ingredients, size, and packaging color are all created by brilliant marketers aimed at selling their product. The truth is none of that matters; the importance is how the chickens are raised: 

Naturally nested.
Naturally organic.
Cage free.
Certified cage free.

With all these labels, who knows what all these actually mean? And should you really care if the chickens were happy?  And most important- which one should you buy??

Let's look at egg basic first Eggs are a great source of protein as well as choline and lutein (promoting brain and eye health).

There is no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs. The healthiest and most nutrient-dense egg is one that came from a hen who has access to the outdoors, to sunlight, to bugs and green grass.

Think about the hens who have no access to the outdoors, no access to sunlight or worse, is cramped in a cage unable to even spread their wings. Corn, soy and antibiotics coupled with stressful environments does not create a high quality egg. The USDA has proven that eggs coming from factory farms have less vitamin A, E and D, less beta carotene, less omega-3 fatty acids and more cholesterol and saturated fat. (It's important to keep in mind that cholesterol, within moderation, is actually a good thing; it acts as an antioxidant against dangerous free radicals within our blood.)

Egg Cheat Sheet

Vegetarian  Hens are not fed any animal protein; diets typically consists of corn and soybeans.

All Natural Meaningless. It's a feel-good phrase created as a marketing ploy to distract us from the unnatural conditions.

Cage Free Technically not living in a cage, but may still live in stifling, overcrowded hen houses with no access to outside. May also be listed as 'Naturally Nested.'

Pasteurized  Eggs that have been exposed to a time- and temperature-controlled water bath to kill any potentially harmful microorganisms.

Free Range Deceiving; may only mean the hens have access to outside for as little as 5 minutes a day and it may be on a concrete slab.

Organic Only guarantees the chicken was fed organic feed (not natural) and isn't receiving antibiotics. May have access to the outside. 

Pasture Raised  Birds have access to lush, open spaces where they can forage on plants and insects. They live a natural chicken life.

Can you tell which eggs I go for??  When at all possible, I buy pasture raised direct from a farmer (second option being the organic and then free range). Many CSA's even offer this option along with delivery of your produce. Or perhaps it's time to add a few hens to your backyard? It's these moments when I really miss a yard!

When you switch up to eggs from pasture raised hens you may see the egg yolk is actually bigger and a darker color (thanks to the real protein they eat from bugs or the better grass they eat) not to mention taste better. You really do pay for what you get. This all holds true for when buying chicken meat too.

Clean up your egg buying and let me know if you notice a difference.

Happy egg shopping!