Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sunny Side Up

What is easier, more satisfying, or faster than breakfast for dinner? Eggs are awesome in my book. They are a great source of protein (7 grams per egg), iron and fat-soluble vitamins. They can also be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which everyone has been hearing a lot about lately due to their anti-inflammatory health benefits. This brings me to my point that not all eggs are created equal and while preparing eggs is fast and easy, choosing which ones to buy in the grocery store is not. Here is a list of the usual suspects:

Option #1: the white Styrofoam container with no labeling (i.e. conventional) that will cost you around 99 cents a dozen.

Option #2: Cage Free

Option #3: Organic

Option #4: Omega-3

Option #5: Free Range

Option #6: Pastured

You may have seen these different labels in your local grocery store. What do all these words mean and which one should you choose? This quick tutorial on egg lingo will have you choosing your carton with confidence!

Conventional chickens are crammed into tight metal cages. Since chickens only lay eggs when it is daytime, the hens are kept in a large warehouse that has the lights on 24 hours a day to maximize production. A conveyor belt runs under the cages and picks up any eggs that the chickens lay. These chickens are given antibiotics as to not spread disease and hormones to assist in the production of more eggs. Their claws and beaks have been removed so they don’t peck each other to death, which you can’t really blame the poor little gals for wanting to do, having to live in those conditions.

Cage free: Pretty much the same as option #1, minus the tight metal cages. These hens are still crammed into a large warehouse and they still loose body parts.

Organic: The chickens are fed only organic feed (no pesticides or herbicides used to grow) and no antibiotics or hormones. Organic also insists that the animals must be treated humanely, which means they can keep their beaks and “have access” to outdoors. You will often times seen “vegetarian diet” on organic egg cartons as well. This means that the chicken feed has no chicken (or other animal byproducts) in it, which is a good thing, since chickens aren’t cannibals.

Omega-3: The chickens are fed flax seeds in their feed to increase the Omega-3 properties of their eggs. We don’t know anything about how they were treated.

Free range: This means that there has to be a door somewhere in the warehouse for the chickens to get out. It doesn’t guarantee that they actually do.

Pastured: Chickens can eat bugs and worms and get to run around and frolic in the grass. They nest and lay eggs when and where they want. The nutritional property of the egg is also increased due to the chicken eating what mother nature intended.

Personally I wish I had my own chickens so I didn’t have to sort all this out. The second best option to that is getting eggs at your local farmers market and talking to the farmer to see what the lives of their hens are like.


  1. When you're ready, we can help you get started with your own chickens! Meantime, the Shadowbrook Inn chicks are happy to provide - and you'll take some home in a couple of weekends!

  2. Yea Martha! I can't wait for some of your farm fresh eggs!

  3. They'll be ready! And you can check the progress (very fast) of the 50 new chicks! They're starting to free range in their own little yard now - very cute!

  4. Eggs are my absolute favorite food! I love them ALL ways! I think after we attend the Tour de Cluck,a fast approaching Davis event where we will be riding around on our bicycles to view excellent chicken coops all over town, we will want a few chickens in the backyard!

  5. The idea of having farm fresh eggs from my own chickens would be awesome. I recently met someone I can get fresh farm eggs from, locally besides the farmers markets. Eggs make great meals from scambled to egg salad; especially with good gluten free bread.