I, personally, cannot go a day without eating an egg. I love them. But when I go to the grocery store, I never know which ones to buy. Which type of egg is the best for me?
The labels they put on eggs can be deceiving. When I first realized what all of them actually meant, I was shocked… There are 5 typical classifications; organic, vegetarian-fed, cage-free, free-range, and pastured (not pasteurized).
The first, organic, seemingly would be the best for you. However, this only means that the chicken’s food is free of harmful chemicals. It speaks nothing to how the chickens were raised. Vegetarian-fed chickens are only given grains for their diet, which seems like it would be healthy, except for the fact that chickens need to get protein from grubs and bugs. So this term also means that the chickens do not have access to the pasture. Next up are the cage-free hens, which sounds very humane. Unfortunately, these chickens are not confined to their cages, but usually are left in a dark barn. Not a very good place to roam and find nourishing things to eat. A step up from cage-free is the free-range chicken. These lucky birds not only get access to roam around the dark barn, but also can go out to the yard, where they can stand on a fenced in piece of dirt or cement. This was definitely not what I thought free-range meant. Lastly, the pastured chicken makes it appearance. Pastured means that the chickens are free to roam through the pasture, or grass-fed. They can eat the grubs and bugs they were meant to, in addition to the food they are given. This type of egg usually comes from small farms that sell their product at local markets.
So why eat pastured eggs? What difference can there really be? Well, Mother Earth News conducted an egg experiment in 2007 to see what the differences really were. In comparison to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data for commercial eggs, pastured eggs contained: ⅓ less cholesterol, ¼ less saturated fat, ⅔ more vitamin A, 3 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta-carotene.
Personally, I’d rather get more bang for my buck. I’ll be making my next egg purchase at my local market.