Focus: Eggs | Caged, Free-Range, Organic

It’s the Easter long weekend, and all anyone can talk about are chocolate Easter eggs. But in my house, we tend to lay off the chocolate eggs and get into what these hollow delights were modelled off – the humble egg.

egg_colours
Image: Wikimedia

The egg can sometimes get a bad reputation, people claiming it has “bad fats”,  eating too many will increase your cholesterol amongst other unsubstantiated claims. However, extensive studies have shown that up to 6 eggs per week are actually of a health benefit to us without having a greater effect on cholesterol levels or risk of heart disease (1). And on top of that, alongside milk and soy beans, eggs have the BEST protein quality compared to any other food (including red meat) (2).

If it couldn’t get any better, the nutritional benefits of eggs are pretty great. They’re a source of a stack of vitamins of minerals including; zinc, iron, B12, selenium, folate, iodine, vitamins A & E as well as omega-3 fatty acids (so if you don’t like fish or seafood, start whipping up some eggs!). This is a key food that you should be think about including in your weekly diet, especially if you’re a vegetarian.

zuams
Image: Imgur

Over the past few years, there has been an increasing focus on purchasing free range or even organic eggs instead of the conventionally laid eggs. So here’s the information about free-range and organic so you can make a choice about whether the extra few dollars on your carton of eggs is really worth it.

Firstly, ALL chickens are raised in barns, with the ability to roam freely.

Free-range chickens have to be able to access the outdoors during the day after they are 3 weeks old. They cannot be treated with antibiotics, they have more space per bird compared to conventional chicken farms but they are the same strain of chicken and they are fed the same food (3).

Organic chickens are fed exclusively organic feed, they’re given access to the great outdoors earlier in life (10 days old) and like the free-range chickens cannot be treated with antibiotics. They have more space per bird than the free-range chickens (3).

egg-yolk
Image: LifeCoderx

There’s little to no difference between all these eggs, they will give you the same vitamins and minerals and all are great sources of protein. Some studies have shown that free-range eggs had more total fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (these are what we call “good” fats) in comparison to caged hens and also slightly higher in omega 3’s but there was no difference in vitamin A and E levels. This difference isn’t large and it really wouldn’t make a huge difference, so it becomes more of a moral choice in the supermarket, if you like knowing your chickens get to run around outside then go ahead and buy those free-range eggs (4).

References

  1. Australian Egg Corporation Limited. Annual Report. Australian Egg Corporation Limited, 2010-11.
  2. Schaafsma G. The Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. 2000;130(7):18655-75.
  3. Charlton KE, Blackall PJ, Probst YC, Tapsell LC. Food, health and nutrition: where does chicken fit? Journal of the Home Economics Institute of Australia. 2008;15(2):5-17.

  4. Anderson KE. Comparison of fatty acid, cholesterol and vitamin A and E composition in eggs from hens housed in conventional cage and range production facilities. Poultry Science. 2011;90(7):1600-8.
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