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Pastured, Omega-3, & Conventional Eggs: What’s The Difference?

Pastured, Omega-3, & Conventional Eggs: What’s The Difference?

I love eggs and eat 3-4 of them for breakfast, every single day.

I don’t lose sleep over it, because research shows that they are good for my health.

But depending on what the hens themselves ate, the nutritional value of the eggs can differ greatly.

The Different Types of Eggs Are a Confusing Mess

There are several different types of eggs, which can leave people confused.

What all of them have in common is that they come from chickens, but they vary depending on how the chickens were raised and what they were fed.

  • Conventional Eggs -These are your standard supermarket eggs. The chickens are usually raised in an overfilled hen house or a cage and never see the light of day. They are usually fed grain-based crap, supplemented with vitamins and minerals. May also be treated with antibiotics and hormones.
  • Organic Eggs – Were not treated with antibiotics or hormones and received organic feed. May have had limited access to the outdoors.
  • Pastured Eggs – Chickens are allowed to roam free, eating plants and insects (their natural food) along with some commercial feed.
  • Omega-3 Enriched Eggs – Basically, they’re like conventional chickens except that their feed is supplemented with an Omega-3 source like flax seeds. May have had some access to the outside.

Conventional vs. Omega-3 Eggs

A study compared the fatty acid composition of 3 types of eggs: conventional, organic and omega-3 enriched (1).

1. Omega-3 eggs had39% less Arachidonic Acid, an inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acid that most people eat too much of.

2. Omega-3 eggs had5 times as much Omega-3 as the conventional eggs.

3. There was very little difference between organic and conventional eggs.

It is clear that hens fed anomega-3 enriched diets lay eggs that are much higher in Omega-3 than conventional eggs.

This is important because most people eat too little Omega-3.

Unfortunately this study didn’t measure other nutrients, only the fatty acid composition.

Conventional vs. Pastured Eggs

In 2007,Mother Earth News magazine decided to test the nutritional value of pastured eggs and received such eggs from 14 different farms.

They were measured in a chemical lab, then compared to the USDA standard conventional egg.

As you can see, eggs from pastured hens are more nutritious than the conventional eggs you might find at the supermarket.

They are higher in Vitamin A, E and Omega-3s. They are also lower in Cholesterol and Saturated Fat, but I don’t think that matters.

A study I found on pastured eggs produced similar results (2).

Other Terms For Eggs

There are other more loose and confusing terms, includingFree Range andCage Free, which may or may not be any better than conventional eggs.

Free range could mean that there’s a small window on the hen house where the hens have the option of going outside.

Cage free just means that they aren’t raised in a cage. They could still be raised in a smelly, dirty overstuffed hen house.

Take Home Message

At the end of the day, pastured eggs are your best bet. They are more nutritious and the hens were allowed free access to the outside and ate a more natural diet.

If you can’t get pastured eggs (like me) then Omega-3 enriched eggs will be your second best choice. If you can’t get either pastured or Omega-3 eggs, then try to find eggs that are either free-range, cage-free or organic.

But even if that’s not an option, then conventional eggs are still among thehealthiest and most nutritious foods you can eat.

To sum up:

Pastured > Omega-3 > Organic > Free Range/Cage Free > Conventional

This just goes to show thatwhat we eat isn’t all that matters — it also matterswhat our foods eat.

 

Related
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Egg Essentials: 21 Tips, Tricks & Recipes
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Read more: Eating for Health, Food, Health, Vegetarian, , , ,

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Authority Nutrition

Kris Gunnars represents AuthorityNutrition.com a site that helps people make informed decisions about their health based on the best scientific evidence available.

133 comments

+ add your own
10:54PM PDT on Jun 22, 2014

I love eggs, and I always feel healthy with lots of energy after a breakfast of eggs

1:26AM PST on Feb 16, 2014

noted, thanks for the information on various types of eggs!

3:15AM PST on Feb 7, 2014

Probably the only way you'll find unwashed eggs in the US is if you "know somebody" or raise your own because it's a law to wash them prior to sale. Eggs get dirty for a number of reasons & they are kept clean in the EU in various ways. But, washing takes off the "bloom" which is a natural protective barrier. Ever wonder why a chicken lays only an egg a day (or so) but that a clutch of a dozen eggs will all hatch within a day of the others? Because the egg doesn't start to incubate until she finishes laying & goes broody (meaning she nests overs them often foregoing food & water during that time as well).

Again, if you eat eggs you owe it to the girls (& the little boys who get ground up alive) to watch "Fowl Play" & bear witness to what they go through to provide for you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lsfn00NJzEM

That just cannot be all that healthy! :(

It's not much if any different in the EU either. Sure, they have "cage-free" for what it's worth & now so-called "enriched cages" but it's still price driving most purchases rather than health or god-forbid any sense of compassion.

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/other_com

4:14PM PST on Feb 6, 2014

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q7XD4AvDKk&feature=share

2:58AM PST on Feb 6, 2014

Noted

4:55PM PST on Feb 5, 2014

I have been told that the European Union does not allow the sale of washed eggs because the washing increases the change of Salmonella contamination. I was also told that in the US eggs must be washed before sale. I doubt that most small farmers bother to wash most eggs and they are the most likely to have chickens that get outside some. As with many foods it is probably best to buy locally if you live where you can.

12:59AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

...the best eggs I have ever eaten were from a farmer selling "farm-fresh" eggs from their own chicken. So much better than from the store. Having a hard time finding anyone in my area who sells eggs like this anymore......

8:14AM PST on Feb 3, 2014

eggs are amazing and I could eat them every meal, that is all. :)

2:14AM PST on Jan 31, 2014

Hmmm... if you are going to eat the eggs and if you are what you eat, then the creature is also what she eats and so-called, "Omega-3" eggs are not much better than the insanely cruel "conventional" (aka factory conditions, watch "Fowl Play" for an idea of what that means -- you owe it to them, and yourself to bear witness to what your "food" goes through), especially because the feed for non-organic is most likely to be GMO soy & corn & alfalfa, & canola, & even the sugar beets. For that there is the possibility of horizontal gene transfer. Not pretty.

There are however lots of alternatives. For instance, if you want an egg substitute for baking then for every egg in the original recipe, use 1 tablespoon flax seed meal or chia seed powder and 3 tablespoons water. Whisk together in a separate bowl, and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes. It will get gummy, just like eggs. You can grind the seeds in a coffee mill just prior to use or buy the powder to keep in the freezer, or buy Ener-G egg replacer or one of the other brands.

For a tasty omelet/quiche try ground garbanzo beans and a little East Indian black salt instead of eggs.

8:08PM PST on Jan 28, 2014

Thank you.

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