This post was written in sponsorship with Handsome Brook Farm. Thank you for supporting continuing projects that make Nutrition Happen!
Brown eggs are better than white eggs.
Today we’re tackling yet another confusing egg topic: EGG LABELING. Believe me, I get it if you’re confused. I mean, one look at the wall of eggs at the grocery store and it’s like, what do I even BUY? So many colors, so many labels, so little time. Organic or cage-free today? What does it REALLY mean? There are plenty of articles out there trying to describe it all, but does it still leave you slightly confused? My friend, let me tell you – you are not alone and dietitians are always here to explain without bias – you’re so lucky to have us!
- In the world of nutrition marketing, the word natural has as much meaning as literally nothing.
- The word natural as established by the USDA just means that the product is free from artificial ingredients, added color, and is minimally processed – this still does not tell you very much about the quality of the overall food. (most things are in fact, “natural” if the ingredients list contains items derived from nature. Yes, even those potato chips are “natural” )
- Labeling is voluntary. This means the legal definitions are loosely based and there is no true definition of what “cage free” can actually claim.
- No standard for the feed the chickens consume.
- While technically chickens that are “cage free” are not caged, this does not mean they have outdoor access.
- Labeling is also voluntary – see concept above.
- No standard for the feed chickens consume.
- Chickens are kept in similar conditions to those that are “cage free” above – but with access to the outdoors. Note the keyword is ACCESS. Which means they may or may not even go outside. Additionally, there are no current regulations to how much time the hens are allowed to spend outside.
- Eggs that are USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC (with the USDA organic seal) are labeled to eggs that come from uncaged hens that have access to the outdoors and are fed a diet free from synthetic pesticides.
- Mandatory labeling – the USDA certification is mandatory for farmers that sell a certain amount of organic eggs on a yearly basis.
- Translation: between cage-free or free range eggs, organic would be the next step to go.
- Hens are fed a diet with added omega-3 fatty acids, which may come from flaxseed or fish oil.
- Nutrition real talk: even though the eggs may have a higher amount of omega-3’s, natural sources like fish, nuts, and seeds are a much more, well rounded (as in, combined with other important vitamins and minerals) way to get those healthy fats in.
- Hens consume a full-grain feed with no animal byproducts.
- BUT this has no indication on the TYPE of feed they consume.
- Food for thought: did you know chickens are naturally omnivorous? In the wild, they peck on worms (I know, I know…but nature, you know?) bugs, grass, and insects. Therefore the big takeaway here is if you see that the label says the hens are provided a vegetarian diet, it’s likely that the hens are confined in cages since they’re not foraging around for bugs and plants.
- In order to have this labeling on the package, eggs must meet the standards provided by the Humane Farm Animal Care program – specifically in regards to the space provided to the hens (i.e. being cage-free and enough space to roam).
- Hens are uncaged and permitted larger access to outdoor space that closely mimics their natural environment – this means their diet are naturally supplemented with grass, flowers, seeds, and bugs from the outdoors.
- Best bet: look for eggs from pasture raised chickens fed with an organic feed – this indicates a little more information in regards to the general animal welfare and the feed it consumes to produce the eggs.
Bottom line: What should you buy?
(Did you know what if your egg floats in a cup of water, it means that it’s probably been in storage for a while and may indicate that it’s gone bad? The more you know!)
Egg labeling has more to do with the condition in where the chickens are are kept. Labels are usually a general guide of chicken welfare, so the type you buy might depend on how much you value animal welfare and how it contributes to the overall quality of the eggs.
Obviously, the choice is totally yours and dependent on how important the quality of food means to you (use your judgement and be realistic about your budget), but unless you have access to a local farm or farmer’s market 24/7, pasture raised eggs are your best bet on quality and standard.
The pasture raised eggs from Handsome Brook Farms are American Humane Certified and USDA certified organic. They’re the closest you can get to fresh farmer’s market eggs (peep the photo below!) I’ve been eating pasture raised eggs for a long time now and the yolks are indeed a richer hue and the whites are much firmer (remember, this indicates egg freshness). The company works with independent and family owned farms to ensure that each hen is provided 107 sq feet of outdoor space to roam – more than quadruple the amount of the conventional standards.
It’s made with a base of cauliflower rice and packed with health fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to start the day off right. Cauliflower rice with this avocado creme (dairy-free, it’s made with cashews and nutritional yeast!) is straight up addicting. You’re so welcome – this avocado creme will be your new best friend.
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup spinach
- 1/4 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp garlic powder + 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups of butternut squash, diced
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cauliflower rice
- 1/3 cup butternut squash
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp “cheesy avocado creme”
- 1/2 tbsp chives, chopped
- 2 tsp coconut aminos*
- 2 tsp ghee or avocado oil
- salt / pepper to taste
- To roast butternut squash, pre-heat oven to 400F.
- Tossed together butternut squash, oil, and seasoning together and add to a lined baking sheet. Roast for around 25 minutes, or until edges begin to brown.
- To prepare avocado creme, add all ingredients to a high speed blender or food processor and blend on high until smooth. Set aside.
- In a small cooking pan, add 1 tsp ghee. Add in cauliflower rice and cook for about 6 minutes over high heat, or until tender. Stir in coconut aminos. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In a separate saucepan, fill 1/2 full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce to medium heat and add in salt and vinegar. Crack an egg into a small bowl or saucer. Carefully lower to bowl into the water and pour the liquid egg in slowly.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon.
- Transfer cauliflower rice to bowl. Add butternut squash, avocado creme, and egg. Top with chives and additional seasoning, as desired.
- *Can replace with liquid amino or additional salt/pepper to taste.
Egg Nutrition Center
Agricultural Marketing Center