More than 23 percent of farms with caged hens tested positive for salmonella, compared to just 4.4 percent in organic flocks and 6.5 percent in free-range flocks.
The highest prevalence of salmonella occurred in the largest holding size category (30,000 birds or more). They contained over four times the average level of salmonella found in flocks closer to the maximum size allowed under British Soil Association organic standards.
It may sound incredible, but many conventional egg operations contain as many as half a million chickens. Each cage will hold four or five birds, each with room to roam an area no larger than a letter-sized sheet of paper.
Subsequently, these cage-raised chickens have to be given routine doses of antibiotics and other drugs, all of which have serious health implications for you the consumer.
The Multiple Benefits of Organic, Free-Range Eggs
Not only are true organic, free-range eggs FAR less likely to contain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, but their nutrient content is also much higher than commercially raised eggs.
In November 2007, Mother Earth News published the results from their second egg-testing project, showing that compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture contained:
- 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.
What Kind of Eggs Should You Buy, and Where Can You Find Them?
First of all, I strongly encourage you to ignore the hype of “designer” eggs and 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. Additionally, omega-3 eggs are far more perishable than non-omega-3 eggs so they don’t stay fresh nearly as long.
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:
How to Check Your Eggs for Freshness and Quality
Regardless of where you get your eggs from, there are several guidelines to ensure that you’re buying and consuming fresh, high-quality eggs:
- Always check the freshness of the egg right before you consume the yolk. If you are at all uncertain about the freshness of an egg, don't eat it. This is one of the best safeguards against salmonella infection.
- If there is a crack in the shell, don't eat it. You can easily check for this by immersing the egg in a pan of cool, salted water. If the egg emits a tiny stream of bubbles, don't consume it as the shell is porous/contains a hole.
- If you are getting your eggs fresh from a farmer it is best to not refrigerate them. This is the way most of the world stores their eggs; they do not refrigerate them. It’s important to remember that to be able to properly judge the freshness of an egg, its contents need to be at room temperature. Eggs that are stored in the fridge and opened immediately after taking them out will seem fresher than they actually are. At the very least, eggs should be kept outside the fridge for at least an hour prior to checking them for freshness or opening them.
- To check for freshness, first roll the egg across a flat surface. Only consume it if it rolls wobbly.
- Next, open the egg. If the egg white is watery instead of gel-like, don't consume the egg. If the egg yolk is not convex and firm, don't consume the egg. If the egg yolk easily bursts, don't consume the egg.
- After opening the egg you can put it up to your nose and smell it. If it smells foul you will certainly not want to consume it.
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. Heating the egg protein actually changes its chemical shape, and the distortion can easily lead to allergies.
If you consume your eggs in their raw state, the incidence of egg allergy virtually disappears. 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 actually 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’re in the habit of eating only the egg white, be aware that controlled diets of only raw egg whites can lead to severe biotin deficiency.
Because when you consume raw egg white alone, without the yolk, a component in them called avidin binds to the B-vitamin biotin, potentially creating a deficiency in your body.
To make sure you’re getting maximum benefit from the whole egg, follow these recommendations:
- My primary recommendation, and the one I follow, is to separate the yolks from the whites so you can cook the whites and consume the yolks uncooked, or raw. The white can be cooked and eaten on its own. Although cooking the white reduces the nutrient quality and perhaps increases allergic sensitivities to some, the avidin in the egg white breaks down when cooked to 100 degrees Centigrade, therefore releasing the biotin back for your absorption and virtually eliminating any risk of biotin deficiency.
- Don't eat raw egg whites every day. Allow your biotin reserves to rebuild and eat only raw yolks as an alternative breakfast.
- Eat yolks one day then whites the next. Remember that the biotin loss occurs in your digestive tract when the two molecules bond together before it is even absorbed. Eating the yolk and the white separately will greatly reduce the problem.