What about eggs? A cagey subject.

So should we be eating eggs? Just the whites, just the yolk? Help decode this tricky protein.

Eggs are a great source of protein, essential fats, minerals (especially sulfur), B vitamins, choline, folic acid and vitamins A, D and E. But please support local, free-range egg producers. At the grocery store, egg carton labels can be confusing.

Cage Free = Eggs from hens that are housed inside a building without being confined to cages. While that sounds more humane, the hens may still be in terribly crowded conditions, and their beaks are usually trimmed to prevent pecking at themselves and others. Many believe beak-trimming is a source of chronic pain for the hens.

Free Range = Suggests that the hens are free to roam around a pasture, but that is rarely the case. “Free range” only means that the door to the facility is open, giving the chicken access to an outdoor area.

Certified Organic = Hens are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Vegetarian = Simply means that the hens are fed a grain-based diet free of any animal products. In reality, of course, chickens are not vegetarians. They naturally eat bugs, grubs, worms, grains, grasses and whatever they can scratch from the ground. I prefer to buy eggs from a neighbor, co-op or farmer’s market, where the hens live naturally. Of course, in some areas, where predators are a problem, the chickens are housed in large cages that are placed in the pasture or field, and moved around to enable the birds to eat what birds are supposed to eat.

And yes, compared to conventional egg farms, hens that are allowed to peck on pasture are healthier and produce more nutritious eggs, with higher levels of Vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and beta carotene. 1

  1. http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-Healthier-Eggs.aspx#ixzz2Do281OEF Accessed on 12/1/12