Mother Earth News recently finished their latest egg-testing project, confirming their 2005 test results that showed true free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs.
Compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
These dramatically differing nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free-range pastured hens, vs. commercially farmed hens.
Without citing any research of their own, most egg industry advocates hold fast to their claim that commercially farmed eggs are no different from pastured eggs, and that hens’ diets do not alter their eggs nutritional value in any significant way.
Mother Earth News points out the flawed and downright fraudulent definitions of “true free-range.” The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines “free-range” as chickens that have “access to the outside.” However, it does not define their diets, nor whether or not the “outside access” is to a cement courtyard or a field fit for foraging.
The REAL Definition of Free-Range Eggs
As this article clearly states, the nutritional difference between true free-range eggs and commercially farmed eggs is not an occasional fluke or misprint, as these findings are being backed up with a mounting body of evidence. (Additional studies published in various journals are cited in their article.)
The fact that the USDA and other organizations (which are often funded or influenced by industry) refuse to acknowledge that there is a direct link between the diet of the bird and the nutritional value of their eggs, is a clear indicator that there are strong financial incentives at work – not nutritional science. Because clearly, “garbage in, garbage out” applies here as well. This general rule will never change – it applies equally to hens, beef cattle, dairy cows, and your own body.
And don’t be fooled by the egg industry’s double-speak definitions of what free-range really is. True free-range eggs are from hens that range freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. A hen that is let outside into a barren lot for a few minutes a day but is fed a diet of corn, soy, and cottonseed meals, plus synthetic additives, is NOT a free-range hen, and will not produce the same quality eggs as its foraging counterpart.
An additional issue that is important, but not discussed here, is the fact that the main ingredients of commercially raised hens' diets are genetically modified (GM).
As I reported recently, the three main GM ingredients in the United States’ food supply are corn, soy, and cottonseed. All the more reason to stay away from commercial eggs, even if they state “free-range” on their label.
Which Eggs to Buy, and Which You Should Avoid
Additionally, I would STRONGLY encourage you to AVOID ALL omega-3 eggs, as they are actually LESS healthy for you. Typically, the animals are fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Also, omega-3 eggs do not last anywhere near as long as non-omega-3 eggs. Remember, omega- 3 eggs are highly perishable and should be avoided.
If you have to purchase your eggs from a commercial grocery store, I would advise getting free-range organic. Ideally, if at all possible it would be far preferable to purchase your eggs directly from your local farmer, because this way you can be certain of the quality. This may not be as hard as you think. In my experience, this is one of the easiest foods to find from local farmers.To find free-range pasture farms you can try you local health food store or try:
Another option is to raise your own, and Mother Earth News published a recent article on how to do it. If you cannot find a farmer to sell you eggs directly, and you’re not interested in raising your own, then organic eggs from the store would be your next best option.
It is also wise to NOT refrigerate your eggs. If you have ever been to Europe or South America and gone into the grocery stores, you will know that this practice of non-refrigeration is common in those countries.
How to Eat Your Eggs for Maximum Health Benefits
Eggs are often one of your most allergenic foods, but I believe this is because they are cooked. If you consume your eggs in their raw state, the incidence of egg allergy virtually disappears. Heating the egg protein actually changes its chemical shape, and the distortion can easily lead to allergies.
It is my belief that eating eggs raw helps preserve many of the highly perishable nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are powerful prevention elements of the most common cause of blindness: age-related macular degeneration.
Fresh raw egg yolk tastes like vanilla. It can be eaten “Rocky style,” combined with avocado or in a shake with whey protein powder, raw kefir, or a small amount of berries. However, egg protein is easily damaged on a molecular level, even by mixing/blending. If you choose not to eat your eggs raw, cooking them soft-boiled would be your next best option.
Scrambling your eggs is one of the worst ways to eat eggs as it actually oxidizes the cholesterol in the egg yolk. If you have high cholesterol this may actually be a problem for you as the oxidized cholesterol may cause some damage in your body.
If you are not used to eating fresh raw eggs, you should start by eating just a tiny bit of it on a daily basis, and then gradually increase the portions.
For example, start by consuming only a few drops of raw egg yolk a day for the first three days. Gradually increase the amount that you consume in three-day increments. Try half a teaspoon for three days, then one teaspoon, then two teaspoons. When you are accustomed to that amount, increase it to one raw egg per day and subsequently to two raw eggs per day or more.
One should not consume raw egg whites without the yolks as raw egg whites contain avidin, which can bind to biotin. If you cook the egg white the avidin is not an issue. However if you consume them with raw egg yolk (whole egg) there is more than enough biotin in the yolk to compensate for the avidin binding.
There is a potential problem with using the entire raw egg if you are pregnant. Biotin deficiency is a common concern in pregnancy and it is possible that consuming whole raw eggs would make it worse. If you are pregnant you have two options. The first is to actually measure for a biotin deficiency. This is best done through urinary excretion of 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid (3-HIA), which increases as a result of the decreased activity of the biotin-dependent enzyme methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase.
Alternatively, you could take a biotin supplement, or consume only the yolk raw (and cook the whites).
If you choose not to eat your eggs raw, cooking them soft-boiled would be the next best option.