Have you noticed the egg section at your local grocery store is expanding? Gone are the days of simply choosing between brown or white eggs. There are so many labels and claims associated with eggs that it is hard to determine what they mean let alone which product is the best choice.
Most of the claims surrounding eggs are associated with the housing/treatment of hens. The majority of eggs on the market come from hens housed in battery cages. Battery cages are stacked 2-8 levels high and hold 5-7 hens per cage. These cages are set up in long rows housed inside massive barns. These barns do not allow access to natural light. Food, water, and light are all controlled by the producer. This artificial environment significantly inhibits the natural behaviours of the chicken. Hens do not have the ability to stretch, flap their wings, perch, dust bath or nest; they are also debeaked to keep from pecking one another.
Fortunately more people are becoming aware of the cruel conditions of battery cage egg production and are demanding a more humane alternative. It is this demand that has resulted in the increase in the egg selection at your local grocery store.
Free-run labels mean that hens are not caged but instead kept in large barns where they can move around more freely. Free-run hens are not given access to the outdoors and may still be overcrowded. Free-range hens are also kept uncaged in barns, but also have access to the outdoors.
The problem with these two claims is that they are uncertified and can be used without any independent auditing regarding animal welfare standards. To be sure that your eggs have come from a humane source is to visit the farm or purchase certified products. Look for SPCA Certified or certified organic to be sure that hens are kept in a free-run or free-range environment with access to perches, dust bathing areas and nest boxes. Be careful of terms such as natural, farm fresh and omega 3, these can apply to eggs from hens in battery cages.
There is much debate over whether or not eggs are a nutritious food. One large egg contains about 5g of fat and 195mg of cholesterol, it also contain vitamin A, D E and B12 as well as folate, selenium, lutein, choline and iron. Omega-3 eggs are as such due to the hens being fed flax or fish oil. Eggs are also a great source of protein. Eggs contain many nutrients and when eaten in moderation are part of a healthy diet.