May 21, 2018

A Guide to Buying Eggs

For years, people limited eggs in their diet to help reduce the risk of heart disease, but our attitudes toward eggs have shifted. Today, we know that eggs are highly nutritious even though they are high in cholesterol, and many nutrition experts have begun to question the idea that dietary cholesterol has a clear impact on blood cholesterol. Current research actually shows that even daily egg consumption is not associated with heart disease for most people.

An egg contains about 6–7 grams of protein as well as choline, biotin, vitamin B12, and even a small amount of vitamin D in its yolk. At typically less than $5 per dozen, eggs offer a lot of nutrition for a fairly low price.

Eggs can usually be consumed for 4–5 weeks after purchase as long as they’re refrigerated properly. If you want to see how fresh your eggs are, try the water test – fresh eggs typically sink when placed in water, while older eggs tend to float. Fresher eggs also have a round yolk that holds its shape once you crack it. Older yolks tend to flatten out and their whites are thinner.

If you consume eggs, here are a few labels and what they mean to help clear up some confusion around this humble superfood! 

Cage-free: Cage-free means that hens aren’t crowded in cages like more conventionally raised hens, but they are given access to roam around an enclosed space. However, this does not mean that hens are given outdoor access.

Pasture-raised: This label refers to eggs that come from hens given access to roam outdoors and forage in a pasture. This label is not totally regulated by the USDA.

Certified organic: Eggs labeled certified organic are from hens fed an organic diet (non-GMO, pesticide-free, etc.) and given outdoor access. 

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Vegetarian-fed: This means that the hens were given a diet of vegetarian feed. Although chickens are omnivores and will eat bugs if given the opportunity to forage, vegetarian-fed hens aren’t given things like oyster shells or fish meal, which is common in conventional poultry feed. This label only refers to diet and doesn’t provide information on living conditions. 

Free-range: This refers to eggs from hens given access to the outdoors. They’re able to forage, but their feed is typically supplemented.

Omega-3-enriched: Like vegetarian-fed, this labels provides information about diet, but not the living conditions. Feed is typically enriched with omega-3s, which help raise the omega-3 content in eggs. 

Keep in mind that practices like beak cutting may be common practice unless eggs are labeled animal welfare approved. For more about different practices, check out this label guide from the Humane Society or this handy table from the ASPCA!

How do you choose which eggs to buy? Share your tips!

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