When standing in front of the egg aisle in your local grocery store, you are likely met with an onslaught of buzz words. Phrases such as pasture raised, organic, cage-free, vegetarian-fed, natural, and more jump out at you. The second thing to jump out is the price difference. You might pay $8 for pasture-raised eggs versus $3.50 for conventional eggs. In this article, we will dig deeper into what these definitions really mean so that you can make the best choices when purchasing eggs.
But first, let’s take a look at some of the top health benefits of eggs:
Incredibly Nutrient Dense
Eggs are packed full of essential nutrients such as vitamins A, B5, B12, B2, folate, phosphorus and selenium.
Eggs Raise HDL (good) Cholesterol
Contrary to popular belief (and one that is thankfully being debunked more and more as of late), the cholesterol in eggs does not raise LDL (bad) cholesterol in the body, and actually promo https://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/11374850tes healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, the type associated with lowered risk of heart disease and stroke.
High In Eye Supporting Antioxidants
Eggs are high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both key for preventing degenerative eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
Pastured Eggs Lower Triglycerides
Not all eggs are created equal (more on this in a moment), but pastured eggs are actually known to lower triglyceride levels, which are a marker for heart disease.
One Of The Best Protein Sources Available
Last but certainly not least, eggs are one of the most complete protein sources available. This means that they have the right ratios of all amino acids, which are the building blocks of our cells.
Now, let’s get on to distinguishing the terminology of eggs, and knowing which truly are the best choice for maximum nutrient benefit.
White vs. Brown Eggs: This is an easy one, because there is no difference in nutrient value, it simply depends on the kind of chickens that lay the eggs.
Cage-Free: Cage free means that the eggs come from chickens that are not caged in houses found in commercial chicken farms where the animals generally do not have adequate room to turn around. However, cage free generally doesn’t mean all that much, as the chickens are typically still confined to some sort of cage without access to the outdoors, and fed sub-par diets.
Free-Range: This typically means that the chickens have access to some sort of outdoor space, although it does not specify for how long and still has no relation to what the animals are fed.
Pasture-Raised: Here, the chickens are reared in a way that is most natural for them, in a pasture with access to shelter. They engage in normal chicken behaviors such as eating foods like worms, insects, fruits, and plants instead of a diet that is largely grain-based (not natural for chickens).
Vegetarian-Fed: This is a tricky one, because we would think this means a plant-based diet. But no, this almost always means that chickens are fed a grain-based diet, and also that they are kept indoors or in cages to keep them from feeding on insects and worms.
Organic Grain-Fed: This simply means that the grains chickens are feeding on have not been sprayed with pesticides or come from GMO (genetically modified) seeds.
What Should You Choose?
Still confused after all these definitions? Lets think best, better, worst.
Hands down, pasture raised are the top choice. You are getting a much bigger bang for your buck in terms of nutrient density, are supporting happy and healthy chickens, You can also be sure that you avoid ingesting potentially harmful pesticides and herbicides, and are doing the land a favor in the process.
Free-range organic should be second choice. Again, avoiding nasty chemicals and hopefully, the chickens are getting a bit of time to forage outdoors.
Commercially raised eggs should be last choice. As mentioned above, here the chickens are kept in tight cages, are under a great deal of stress, produce much lower quality eggs, and they are fed grains that may be laden with pesticides.
To buy top quality eggs at a better price, try your local farmers market. Remember, seriously stressing over something we can’t control can largely undermine a clean diet, so if you don’t have access to good eggs, simply do the best you can and perhaps don’t make eggs your number one protein source.
Hopefully this guide helps clear up some of the confusion, and egg shopping can get a little bit easier.
-  https://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/11374850. Retrieved March 15th, 2016.
-  https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2125160. Retrieved March 15th, 2016.
-  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021915006000694. Retrieved March 15th, 2016.