Become An Egghead: Unscramble Egg Labels And Shop Smart!

When it comes to eggs, there are more differences than whites versus yolks. Get the skinny and buy the right egg!

It's time to crack open the enigma of the egg, from allergies and nutrient values to colorization and caloric density. It's time to make smart decisions in the grocery aisle. Unless you want to raise your own brood, it's time to learn the rules of the henhouse!

Before you hit the store and start cracking, it's important to learn a number of important and egg-cellent terms. First, egg-laying hens can be classified as cage-free (free-range and free-run) or caged (battery). These terms do not refer to the nutritional content of the eggs, but rather to the conditions in which the chickens are raised. Unfortunately, the vast majority of eggs in the United States are laid by battery hens in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Only a small percentage of chickens are raised on the range.

Battery Hens ///

These are crowded into cages with little room to move. Feed is placed in a trough at the front of the cage. Eggs that have been laid get funneled down a conveyor belt and then processed in a factory. Ninety-seven percent of U.S. eggs are laid from chickens housed in battery cages because it entails less expense, less manual labor, more automation, higher egg yields and more uniformity among the eggs.1

Free-Range Eggs ///

These are laid from hens given access to nesting boxes, open floor space, perches, and outdoor free runs. Free-range eggs are more expensive to produce because more effort is required to collect the eggs, which are more susceptible to spoilage and less likely to be uniform in size. Although free-range chickens have access to the outdoors, they rely on the barn for shelter and safety.

Free-Run Eggs ///

Free-run eggs come from hens permitted to roam freely in an enclosed facility, such as a barn. Free-run eggs are slightly cheaper than free-range eggs because the chickens are more tightly controlled.

Free-range and free-run hens have nesting boxes where they lay their eggs. They also have freedom to roam around the barn, which means some hens will occasionally lay eggs on the ground. Ground eggs cannot go to market, which increases production costs.

Cage-Free Hens ///

These hens are raised without a cage. This does not imply the hens are permitted to move around freely, nor does it mean they are raised under particular conditions. While free-range and free-run hens are handled in a more humane fashion than caged hens, there is little to no oversight of cage-free claims. This means packing claims may not actually reflect the true conditions under which the hens are raised.

Omega-3 Eggs ///

These nutritionally enhanced eggs provide more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E compared to regular eggs. An omega-3 egg contains approximately 320 mg of omega-3, whereas a regular egg contains approximately 63 mg of omega-3.2 Omega-3 eggs are produced by chickens fed with an all-natural, flax-based diet.

The type of omega-3 fatty acid found in omega-3 eggs is alpha-linolenic acid, which is found exclusively in the egg yolk. Yes, you have to eat the egg yolk of an omega-3 egg in order to reap these benefits.

Is Free-Range Organic? ///

An egg is deemed organic if the laying hen has access to the outdoors, is not raised in a cage, is only fed organic feed (free of animal by-products, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs), is not administered antibiotics (except during an infectious outbreak), and is not subjected to forced molting.3

Organic and free-range eggs are not synonymous. Free-range chickens can be fed non-organic feed, which may not be GMO-free. They can also be given antibiotics. If you want to purchase organic eggs, then look for labels that say both organic and free-range, not just free-range.

Does Color Matter? ///

The color of an eggshell just depends upon the hen's breed. An eggshell's color has nothing to do with its quality, nutritional value, or flavor. That said, brown eggs are generally more expensive because the hens that lay them are larger and tend to eat more feed than the hens that lay white eggs.4

Allergy Info ///

Egg allergies represent the second-most common food allergy in children (after cow's milk).5 The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that most children outgrow an egg allergy by 5 years of age.6

Egg whites tend to cause more severe allergies than egg yolks, especially if the egg white is raw or poorly cooked. It is possible to be allergic to the egg yolk and not the egg white, and vice versa. It is also possible to be allergic to individual proteins in both the egg yolk and egg white.7

If you have a severe egg allergy, avoid all egg protein and carry an EpiPen at all times. Flu vaccines are typically made using chicken embryo, which means egg-allergic individuals may react to egg proteins in vaccines.7

If you have a mild egg allergy, then small traces of egg in cooked goods can typically be eaten. To reintroduce eggs into your diet, start with small amounts in baking. If you do not react, then try a small piece of hard-boiled egg yolk. You can progress to hard-boiled egg white, and then eventually eat something like an omelet.

Egg whites can provoke a non-allergic response in some people. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, gas, bloating and diarrhea. Often, people with egg white intolerance can tolerate small quantities of egg-whites, especially if they are well-cooked (as in cakes and baked goods).

People who are allergic to eggs are typically not allergic to chickens.

Egg Substitutes ///

You can purchase egg-free egg replacer in health food stores, which can be used in recipes which call for eggs. It generally works best for binding or leavening. It does not work well for desserts calling for high egg content.

For baking (consistency):
1/2 cup of applesauce = 1 egg
1 tbsp flaxseed + 3 tbsp water = 1 egg

References

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/08/15/weekinreview/15marsh-grfk.html
  2. http://www.alive.com/articles/view/18455/omega-3s_and_children
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_egg_production
  4. http://www.everythingeggs.ca/eggspert-advice/frequently-asked-questions/
  5. Egg Allergy. Food Allergy Initiative. 2008. Retrieved 12-11-2008.
  6. Egg Allergy Facts Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_allergy#cite_note-2


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About The Author

Dr. Sara Solomon received her B.Sc. in Physical Therapy and her D.M.D. in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Learn more about this Oxygen Magazine success...

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SaraSolomon

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SaraSolomon

Thanks for Sharing :)

Jul 5, 2013 3:38pm | report
 
SugarNation

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SugarNation

Great work as usual, Dr. Solomon!

Jul 5, 2013 5:37pm | report
faiznmatazzz

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faiznmatazzz

Dr. Sara thanks for this info.!

Jul 6, 2013 12:29am | report
 
XxmetallicaxX

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XxmetallicaxX

Awesome article, I love eggs and eat them all them time, especially hardboiled in my salads, I always wondered about the protein content in a whole egg too so that's great info as well

Jul 6, 2013 4:52am | report
 
going2win

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going2win

Good article! I see people at the store always going for the free range or cage free and not realizing they should be getting organic. More expensive but well worth it! I ran out of organic one morning and had to buy regular eggs and I had not had them for a long time. I swear they smelled and tasted like bad fish. Ick!

Jul 6, 2013 7:39am | report
 
elexorcisto

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elexorcisto

Great summation of the differences between eggs, but I have one nit to pick. Shell color has nothing to do with feather color and everything to do with genetics. I have grey chickens that lay brown eggs, white chickens that lay green eggs, and black chickens that lay white eggs...

Jul 6, 2013 10:26am | report
 
robwein83

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robwein83

The author never did say that shell color has anything to do with feathers.

Jul 13, 2013 10:26pm | report
cpamia

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cpamia

Great information - thanks so much for the insight! We've just recently gotten set up with a local farm for home delivery off eggs and milk. This article was very timely to help us understand what we're truly getting :)

Jul 6, 2013 12:09pm | report
 
Benny713

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Benny713

Whats is your opinion on Egg Beaters?

Jul 6, 2013 12:17pm | report
 
SaraSolomon

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SaraSolomon

is that an American thing? I've never seen "egg beaters" in canada. What is it?

Jul 6, 2013 6:14pm | report
billd5

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billd5

Sara egg beaters is egg whites in a carton like a milk carton. no yolks so either low or no fat. There are a few companies that make them you find them in the same area as regular eggs in the supermarket

Jul 6, 2013 6:53pm | report
Ripper22

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Ripper22

But which came first?!?

Jul 6, 2013 12:31pm | report
 
Robertsy69a

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Robertsy69a

Great...

Jul 6, 2013 2:13pm | report
 
Mr.Tj

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Mr.Tj

very nice article

Jul 6, 2013 9:56pm | report
 
musclejunkie178

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musclejunkie178

OMG i have been throwing away a lot of protein by only consuming egg whites. Thanks for the headsup. What about the cholesterol values in egg whites and eggs(raw).

Jul 7, 2013 12:32am | report
 
tlabrum

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tlabrum

I always wondered but never had time to look it up on my own. Thanks for putting it into an easy all in one artical.

Jul 7, 2013 1:39am | report
 
tigertaylor

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tigertaylor

Chickens #1 Bodybuildig resource straight up.

Jul 7, 2013 2:06am | report
 
judge218

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judge218

Great info and finally real answers. But don't we throw away the yolks due to its very high cholesterol??

Jul 7, 2013 4:24am | report
 
elexorcisto

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elexorcisto

Dietary cholesterol has very little bearing on serum cholesterol levels. Dietary cholesterol is however very important as a precursor to testosterone. More testosterone = teh awes0me.

Jul 7, 2013 6:47am | report
 
Kovenant

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Kovenant

Only a dumb remove yolks, if you're a trained athlete or a Real Bodybuilder, that the most important part, that's why i still saying don't read Men's health that for noobs.

Jul 7, 2013 9:34am | report
 
TheGov1911

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TheGov1911

Mr. Kovenant, folks with cholesterol problems, like myself once before, have to be cautious about an abundance of eggs. I eat 4 whites and 1 whole egg to get my natural protiens. Also, noter it is wise for bodybuilders to get cholestol checks periodically based on some the stuff we eat. Im just saying.

Sep 16, 2013 2:09pm | report
Kovenant

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Kovenant

By the way about the Color of the Eggs, I like more brown eggs, because every time I ate a white eggs i get burps and heartburn in my stomach.

Jul 7, 2013 9:35am | report
 
dbman4

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dbman4

I'm digging wikipedia being used for sources :)

Jul 7, 2013 8:39pm | report
 
professorlmf

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professorlmf

Very informative!

Jul 8, 2013 8:41am | report
 
katrina007

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katrina007

I worked as a supervisor in the commercial poultry industry for 3 years for the 2nd largest operation in the country. We had all white hens and they layed brown eggs. Egg shell color just has to do with the breed type, what they are being fed, and the individual hen.

Jul 8, 2013 9:24am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 44 Comments

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