Are expensive eggs really “better” for you?

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THEf all foods I buy regularly, the price of eggs vary more. They can cost two dollars for 18 or whole seven US dollars per dozen …a discrepancy large enough for a fairly simple one food.

The egg cartons have many words printed on them, and the presence of some of those it seems to influence the price of eggs inside more than others-particularly “organic” and “free range”. You can read all about what those words really mean herebut even with this knowledge, it can be difficult to know if the more expensive eggs are “worth it,” especially if you are trying to feed yourself or your family on a balance.

Are expensive eggs better for you?

To truly answer this question, you should conduct a workshop study comparing all the different brands of eggs on the shelf. Personally I don’t have time for this (nor access to a laboratory)but this recent article from the CBC market provides some interesting facts to consider:

Market Randomly bought two cartons each of different types of eggs from 14 brands from grocery stores across the Greater Toronto Area. In total, the team sent 29 dozen eggs to an accredited food science laboratory to test for cholesterol, protein and omega-3 levels, as well as vitamins A, D and E.

Levels of omega-3 fatty acids were consistently higher in organic eggs:

In all cases, organic eggs had higher omega-3 levels than their conventional counterparts. There was an average of 0.13g of omega-3s for a large organic egg compared to about 0.05g for conventional eggs.

But with that exception“organic” eggs, especially from large producers, did not guarantee a more nutritious eggespecially compared to conventional eggs from the same brand:

On average, there were also no major differences between the cheaper conventional eggs and the more expensive organic ones sold by the same brands … In fact, in some cases conventional eggs had higher levels of some vitamins than their organic counterparts. This has been the case with Burnbrae Naturegg Organic Eggs versus Burnbrae’s cheaper Prestige Eggs and Loblaw President’s Choice Organics Eggs versus Loblaw No Name Eggs. When it came to Sobeys Compliments eggs, there was more vitamin E in the conventional than the organic, but LH Gray’s Organic GoldEgg contained more vitamin D than the cheaper Gray Ridge Premium eggs.

None of the nominees brands are being sold in the United States, but this data suggests an organic label on an egg carton and no warranty the hens that laid them they were fed a more nutritious diet. In Canada and the United States, an “organic” label no necessarily dictate what kind of food a chicken has access to.

According to consumers, requires the USDA’s “National Organic Program” the organic eggs “come from chickens raised without cages, fed an organic diet grown without pesticides, managed without antibiotics and hormones and who have seasonal access to the outdoors”.

In Canada, “The organic eggs come from hens raised in an open-air system with access to fresh air. These hens are fed with certified organic feed and the breeders follow Canadian organic standards regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “

Neither country specifies what chickens must be fed for the certification of their eggsjust that whatever you eat it must band “grown without pesticides”. There is no guarantee the chickens were fed that way varied and nutritious diet that could translate into moreover nutritious eggs.

The size of the farm seems to be more important than the organic label

A large part of running a business involvess cutting costs while maximizing profit, and large companies tend to be particularly ruthless about it. Organic labels don’t tell us much about an individual chicken’s quality of life or access a varied diet. Herd size and access to outdoor spaces appear to have a more direct effect on nutrition, and the CBC Marketplace study found eggs from smaller farms were more nutritious overall:

Small-farm organic eggs contained an average of 3.25 mg of vitamin E for a large egg, which is about 20% of the recommended daily value. Big brand organic eggs contained an average of 2.16 mg of vitamin E. The vitamin D level in organic small farm eggs averaged 31.65 IU, which is about five percent of the recommended daily value. In organic eggs from major brands, this average was 20.50 IU.

Organic small-farm eggs also contained about one gram more protein per large egg than eggs sold by the bigger brands and had slightly lower cholesterol.

What does this all mean?

Paying more for eggs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a more nutritious egg, particularly if you’re buying organic eggs from large companies. Eggs from smaller farms are likely to be more nutritious because chickens are more likely to enjoy a more varied nutritious diet and they are more likely to get out (and maybe enjoy a worm or two), and that usually results in “better” eggs. (And the more expensive ones.)

One pasture-raised egg is more likely to be more nutritious than a super cheap farmed egg, but even the cheapest egg contains protein and vitamins, and eating a couple of eggs, no matter how cheap, is rarely a bad choice, from a health standpoint (unless that you are not really watching your cholesterolI presume).

There Is no ethical consumption under capitalism, but I still try to buy eggs from vendors who treat their chickens with the greatest possible care (this card is useful in this sense), and I found that the yolks ofif eggs tend to do so taste richer than those in super cheap eggs, even when mixed in recipes such as these mashed potatoes or homemade mayonnaise.

If you really want to get the “best” eggs at your disposal, do a little research, conduct some taste tests and choose an egg that suits your palate and budget. Don’t assume that “organic” means “best for you”, especially if yours the organic eggs have arrived from a large company mega-farm.

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