Buying Eggs for Your Family

Eggs are popular for their nutritional value and versatility. They can be prepared any number of ways and can supplement breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Eggs are used in many recipes to bind ingredients together, as in cakes, pancakes, quiches, and cookies, to name a few. I have even seen eggs as an ingredient in some breads and bagels. Because we use eggs so often for numerous things, it is important to know what we are getting from the eggs that we purchase. The egg aisle of the grocery store is filled with many options and the decision as to which eggs to buy can be an overwhelming one.

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Here are some of the labels that you see on egg cartons, and what they actually mean:
Standard:
These are the most common types of eggs found in grocery-stores and are relatively cheap in comparison to other eggs. The downside is the hens that lay these eggs are kept in small metal cages called battery cages, and aren’t given space to move and exercise. The hens never see natural light and will remain caged for the entirety of their lives. Battery farm hens are often fed a high-protein feed containing animal by-products, antibiotics, chemicals, and possibly hormones.
Nest-laid:
Hens that lay these eggs are kept in furnished housing systems. These hens may never see natural light but they are given space to move around within their cages. The hens are able to express natural behaviours such as spreading their wings, perching, scratching for food, and giving themselves dust baths. The hens are fed a high-protein feed consisting of animal by-products, antibiotics, and chemicals.
Free-run/Cage-free:
These eggs are laid by hens that are housed in barns with ample space to roam around freely and express natural behaviours. The hens do not see natural light and are not given outdoor access. The hens are typically fed the same feed as hens that produce standard and nest-laid eggs.
Free-range:
Free-range eggs are produced by hens that have daily access to the outdoors, weather-permitting of course. However for the majority of the time they are housed indoors in large barns with ample space to exercise and carry out natural activities. The hens are neither caged nor kept in pens. The size of the flock per barn is monitored so these hens are less prone to disease and infection and therefore can be raised without the use of antibiotics.
Omega-3 fortified:
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that we need for maintain a healthy heart and normal brain function. Omega-3 fortified eggs are a wonderful option for those who don’t get enough Omega-3 through foods such as fish, vegetable oils, flaxseed, spinach and leafy greens. The hens that produce these eggs are fed an Omega-3 enriched diet consisting of canola, linseed, and flaxseeds. As a result these eggs are considerably higher in Omega-3 than the average egg. The downside is that the hens are kept in battery cages, unless otherwise stated.
 Antibiotic & Hormone-free:
The hens that lay these eggs are fed a natural feed, without antibiotics and hormones. The hens are raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones.
Vegetarian:
These eggs are laid by hens that are only given feed composed of plant-based ingredients. Unfortunately these hens are kept in cages unless otherwise stated.
Vitamin-enhanced:
Vitamin-enhanced eggs are laid by hens that are fed a vitamin-enhanced feed. Vitamins such as Vitamin D, E, B6, and B12 are added into the feed and as a result the eggs laid contain higher amounts of those particular vitamins.
Organic:
Organic eggs are produced by hens that have daily access to the outdoors, weather-permitting, with natural vegetation. During the night, they are housed in barns with ample space. The hens are well-cared for and therefore are generally healthy without the use of antibiotics. They are only fed organic grain feed, grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and commercial fertilizers. The feed does not contain any antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, or animal by-products. Organic eggs are the most expensive category of eggs found at the grocery store.
NOTE:
  • Contrary to popular belief, there is no difference in nutritional value between brown and white eggs.
  • Grade AA, A, B are used to rate the degree of freshness with Grade AA being the most fresh. Grades AA and A are available for purchase at local grocery stores and Grade B eggs are usually used in processed/ready-made foods.
  • Grain-fed and Vegetable Grain-fed are used synonymously. All Canadian chicken are grain-fed, which means that the main ingredient in chicken feed is grain (wheat, barley, or corn). Whether the feed is 100% grain is questionable as many feeds contain a small percentage of animal by-products unless otherwise stated.
  • One egg contains 6 grams of protein and 14 other minerals and vitamins.
  • The Canadian Food Guide considers two large eggs as one serving.  

I purchase Free-Range eggs for my husband, and organic eggs for my children. I am willing to pay a few extra dollars to be certain that the hens that produce the eggs we all enjoy are raised ethically and responsibly. One of the reasons I became a vegetarian at 12 years old (after a few years of convincing of my parents) is because I didn’t agree with the inhumane treatment of animals that are raised for meat, dairy, and eggs and I don’t feel any differently now that I am a mother. However, times are changing and more humane practices are being used which means responsibly-raised meats are more readily available now than before. Since I have decided to incorporate eggs, poultry, and fish into my children’s diets, I make sure that I buy responsibly raised organic meat, fish, and eggs. I regularly buy President Choices’ organic eggs which are available at No Frills, The Real Canadian Superstore, Food Basics, and FreshCo.

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