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Here’s the Lowdown on the Showdown Between Caged Eggs and Organic

Confused about what it means when the label on your eggs says organic or non-GMO? Or, not sure what the big deal is about how and where the chickens producing those eggs were raised? And just what do those sizes and grades mean — is there really difference besides prices? If you’d like help clearing up the mix up on what egg labels mean, then Eat This, Not That has 26 pointers that will steer you in the right direction.

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From giving you the lowdown on the showdown between caged chickens and free-ranging, organic chickens with no antibiotics, to explaining why brown eggs cost more, this list of 26 interesting egg and chicken facts will set you straight.

In the meantime, know that the egg is the best part of a chicken. Even better news is that despite a long history of being reviled for contributing to bad cholesterol numbers, the truth is and always has been that eggs are nutritious and are not the bad food you were led to believe.

In fact, eggs are considered one of the world’s most perfect foods; yes, dense, small-particle LDL cholesterol in your body is a risk factor for heart disease, with the large, fluffy LDL particles putting you at a lower risk, but the kicker is that eggs convert small LDL particles to large particles. This means that not only are eggs safe to eat, it really doesn’t matter whether you eat two eggs or a dozen — they are still good for you.

So, instead of focusing on the faulty science that made you worry unnecessarily about consuming too much cholesterol, there are numerous reasons to go ahead and enjoy them. They're loaded with vitamins and minerals; in fact, just one boiled egg imparts these very good-for-you nutrients, in terms of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI), including vitamin A, B5, B12, B2, protein and phosphorous.

Even more important is the fact that eggs are a rich source of choline — about 113 milligrams (mg) in a single egg, nearly 25 percent of your DRI — which is necessary for building cell wall membranes, producing the molecules crucial for brain signaling and to make the brain chemical acetylcholine, involved in storing memories.

It also helps prevent the buildup of homocysteine in your blood (linked to heart disease) and reduces chronic inflammation. Choline plays a crucial role in pregnant women, as it helps to prevent certain birth defects, including spina bifida and, again, is very important for the brain development of unborn babies.

While we’re on the topic, take note that free-range or “pastured” organic eggs are far superior when it comes to nutrient content, while conventionally raised eggs are far more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella. You can usually tell your eggs are pastured by the color of the egg yolk.

Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks, and this is what most people who raise backyard chickens are after. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you're getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.

Choosing food that comes from small regenerative farms — not CAFOs — is crucial. While avoiding CAFO meats, look for antibiotic-free alternatives raised by organic and regenerative farmers. Unfortunately, loopholes abound, allowing CAFO-raised chickens and eggs to masquerade as "free-range" and "organic."

The Cornucopia Institute address some of these issues in their egg report and scorecard, which ranks egg producers according to 28 organic criteria. It can help you to make a more educated choice if you’re buying your eggs at the supermarket.

Ultimately, as mentioned, the best choice is to get to know a local farmer and get your meat and eggs there directly. Alternatively, you might consider raising your own backyard chickens.

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