In Debunking Egg Myths Part 1, I deconstructed the fundamentals of egg nutrition, explained how the nutritional content of different eggs vary, debunked concerns about cholesterol and made a case for eggs being part of your healthy eating goals. In this post, I’ll review the different types of eggs that are available to consumers.
Variety is the spice of life
Today, farmers raise their hens in a variety of housing environments to provide choice to consumers when it comes to purchasing eggs. I have toured an egg farm and seen these housing systems for myself; it was truly amazing to see.
The two main types of housing that chickens are raised in are enriched or furnished colony and conventional cages. The enriched cages are slightly bigger and they have specific places for the birds to perch and lay their eggs in a nest area.
White versus brown eggs: Contrary to what many think, there are no nutritional differences between white and brown eggs; quite simply white hens produce white eggs and brown hens produce brown eggs. However, because brown hens are bigger, they eat more feed and so brown eggs are slightly more expensive to produce that whites are.
Free run eggs: produced by hens that are free to roam in wide open concept barns [but don’t go outside] equipped with nests and are given a standard multi-grain feed so these eggs are equally nutritious and are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals too.
Free Range/Pastured eggs: hens that produce these eggs have access to the outdoors weather permitting. Hens are free to peck at the grass, bugs, worms and other natural elements when outside which can affect the nutritional composition of their eggs. Because of this, the amount of fats, vitamins and minerals can potentially vary compared to non-pastured/free range eggs which are fed a standardized feed however the differences are not considered important.
Prestige eggs: are produced from young hens in the peak of their production. These eggs are great for frying because the white and yolk hold together well and they stand up in the pan and offer great presentation when served.
Vegetarian raised eggs: the main difference between these eggs and regular eggs is that hens that produce these eggs are feed an exclusive vegetarian diet which contains no animal protein. It should be noted though that chickens are naturally omnivores so the feed for these hens is modified to guarantee that they get other sources of protein.
Omega-3 fortified eggs: omega-3 eggs have the same nutritional profile of standard eggs and are an equally good source of protein, vitamins and minerals but unlike other eggs, the hens are provided with an additional source of omega-3 fats from flax and vitamin E to protect the omega-3 fat from being damaged, or oxidation.
Omega-3, lutein and vitamin D enriched eggs: are nutritionally enhanced for those consumers that are looking for natural foods with more essential nutrients. These eggs provide an additional source of DHA omega-3 fatty acids by giving a small amount of fish oil to the chickens’ feed, the same kind of oil in fish oil supplements. As well, marigold extract is added as a source of lutein and the eggs are also fortified with extra vitamin D. A one egg serving provides 125 mg of DHA, 0.5 mg of lutein and is an excellent source of vitamin D.
Organic: these eggs are produced from chickens that are fed an organically grown, multi-grain diet and have access to the outdoors weather permitting. To be considered organic, the grains are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers. Organic eggs are equally nutritious as non-organic eggs and provide an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals.
The only exception to this nutrient rule would be omega-3 fats; while pasture raised eggs can have slightly more than conventionally raised eggs the real differences are minimal – to use eggs as a significant source of omega-3 fats, you need to choose omega-3 fortified eggs.
Simply put, eggs are nutritious and in many ways can be considered nature’s perfect food. Eggs are an affordable and easy way to provide quality nutrition to you and your family providing an excellent source of protein and 14 vitamins and minerals. While it’s true that eggs were given a bad rap because of unfounded concerns about their cholesterol content, governmental agencies now recognize that the cholesterol in food is now longer a concern; eggs can be enjoyed every day. As consumers we love choice and egg farmers have responded in kind offering a variety of different types of eggs to suit everyone’s individual tastes, values, preferences and needs. Regardless of the type of egg or how they’re produced, all eggs are nutritious and can be part of any healthy lifestyle.