You shouldn’t judge an egg by its shell. Don’t be an eggist, I was one for years. There was just something about the brown egg, I just couldn’t do it. Until recently that is. I remember hearing years ago that brown eggs were healthier than white. But back then I was constantly cruising through drive-thru’s and stuffing my face with whatever sugary goodness I could find. It’s basically like explaining to 12-year-old kids that broccoli is better for them than a Snickers bar. They likely completely understand what you are saying and the reasoning behind it, they just don’t care. Luckily, despite minimal broccoli, I’m all grown up now and care. So I took the plunge and cracked my first brown egg the other day.
Over the last 8-10 years I’ve probably had eggs for breakfast about four times a week. Throughout my life I have gone through many egg phases. When I was younger, it was all about the yoke. Scrambled eggs and ketchup were a plenty. In fact, one Christmas we had scrambled eggs for dinner! Yup, very classy indeed. My brothers and I never let my dad forget about the gourmet meal he served up for us. The truth is, my mom (the cook) was working and I think we had a big dinner on Christmas Eve. Either way, it’s still fun to make fun of the old man. Another favorite was sunny side up and dipping my buttery toast in the yoke. When I first started getting a bit health conscious in college, I started going with my famous egg white sandwich. No yokes, unless I was eating out. Most recently, I’ve been going with one complete egg and two egg whites.
After watching Food INC (Click here for my Food INC movie review) about a year ago, and seeing how my delicious eggs and chickens are raised on those factory farms, I made another switch. I stopped buying the cheapest eggs I could find. After all, I’m a big believer in the “you are what you eat” philosophy. That being said, those factory farm chickens that are stuck in their cages, eating slop, getting no sunlight and flopping around in their own poop was not for me. I decided to pay a bit more and go for the “cage free” eggs. I think they taste better and the brand I buy doesn’t have any hormones or antibiotics. While that was definitely a step up, I soon learned there are other steps. There are also “free range” eggs, and “free range” eggs that are organic. So what do all these classifications mean?
Cage Free: The chickens aren’t cooped up in their cages all day. They have some space to stretch their wings and move about. However, there seems to be no clear guidelines or regulations to the exact space, or a way to monitor exactly what classifies cage free.
Free Range: This means that the chickens are not only out of their cages, but hopefully out of the barn or warehouse. They live a life a chicken is meant to live: on the land. However, once again, there are no real regulations to monitor this.
Organic: The hens nor their feed can be subjected to antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or herbicides.
Often you will see organic free range eggs. These appear to be the healthiest of the bunch.
Now back to brown egg portion of the article… I finally decided to try brown eggs because they were the only type of egg I could find that are both organic and free range. Although, some white eggs are organic and free range. So I went brown, organic and free range. I was a bit nervous, but once I cracked that brown egg and dropped it in the pan, what do you know: it was exactly the same as all my white eggs! Who would of thunk it. The only difference was it wasn’t as runny/watery, and it seemed to taste better. And with that, I have conquered my fear of brown eggs!
So are brown eggs any healthier than white?Good question, and one that likely has lots of different answers. If you take out the free range and organic aspect, and just look at white versus brown eggs being raised the same way, there isn’t a difference at all. Nutritionally speaking, you will find white and brown eggs have the same exact amount of protein, cholesterol, protein, carbs, etc. BUT, if you also consider how the chicken was raised, I would definitely say there is a big difference. Even though all the nutritional information on the carton may look exactly the same, egg manufacturers don’t have to specify how many hormones and antibiotics the chicken was shot up with. Nor do they have to explain the puddles of slop the chicken was swimming in.
Making a long egg story short: I now spend the extra money for organic brown eggs that are free range. While I’ll likely never know if my little chicken was actually able to trot around the barn, I am at least comfortable knowing he wasn’t a caged prisoner. That is, if the manufacturer is actually doing what its claiming.
And finally, why are some eggs white and some brown? It’s all about who lays the egg. White-shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes. Brown-shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. It seems it’s as simple as that.
NUTRITIONAL INFO FOR ONE LARGE BROWN AND WHITE EGG: THEY’RE THE SAME:
Total fat: 4.5g
Saturated fat 1.5g
Total Carb 1g
The following are excerpts of an email from a friend in regards to the great egg debate. My friend has been raising chickens for show and for eggs for about 14 years.
I do not recommend “cage-free” and “free-range” eggs to anyone for nutritional or ethical reasons. The problem is that these two terms are not uniformly implemented – so “free-range” could mean that the chickens are merely living in an indoor cage slightly larger than an industrial battery cage, not running free outdoors or at least in a large pen, enjoying dirt, grass, bugs and sunlight like chickens should be, and that we imagine they are when we see “free-range” on the egg carton we’re buying. The term “free-range” is actually not regulated in the U.S. at all, so egg producers get to decide what it means for the way the chickens are housed and raised.
“Cage-free” at least usually means that the chickens are not being housed in wire cages, but they are still usually housed indoors in large barns in overcrowded conditions.
Also, “free-range” and “cage-free” only applies to the way the chickens are housed, not the way they are fed. People who want to steer clear of GMO corn and animal byproducts (often slaughterhouse wastes) in their eggs need to look for both “organic” and “vegetarian diet” on their egg cartons.
I can safely say that there is a nutritional difference between industrially-farmed eggs and “organic” eggs, and that there is more nutrition in an organically farmed egg. Since the term “organic” is regulated by the USDA, you know you are not getting antibiotics or hormones in your eggs, that the birds are fed diets free of GMO crops and animal byproducts, and that they are housed with access to the outdoors (although this part is not well-regulated and could be anything from a full outdoor run accommodating all the chickens or a tiny plot adjacent to a large 16,000-bird barn that means they spend most of their time indoors). Under the USDA’s terms for “organic,” the birds also cannot be forced-molted. But there can still be other animal welfare issues even in organic egg farms (such as de-beaking, which doesn’t affect the nutrition of the eggs, but in my opinion, if it needs to be done, it indicates that the producer has an overcrowding problem).
We know that eggs with the best nutrient content come from healthy hens who are not under stress (i.e. not overcrowded, able to keep themselves clean and free of parasites, given access to sunlight and the outdoors, and given a proper diet [which, incidentally, is not "vegetarian;" chickens in the wild eat a lot of insects, and they need the phosphorus in insect exoskeletons to make eggshells]). The only way to know how your eggs are being produced (and thus to better evaluate their nutritional value as well as their ethical value) is to visit the farm where they come from. And, really, the best way to know you are eating healthy eggs is to raise chickens yourself.