If you’ve been following my instagram account for some time, you probably know that I love eggs. If you’ve been following my instagram account for even 48 hours, you have also likely realized that eggs are a staple in my diet. Poached, scrambled, over-medium, hard-boiled - you name it. To me, adding an egg to a salad, (chickpea) pasta, or toast makes a meal far more delicious and satisfying than without one... or two.
You may have also noticed that I always eat the whole egg; yep, whites plus yolk. Come to think of it, there’s not even one single post of an egg white on my feed. Weird, because the egg yolk contains all of the unhealthy fats, cholesterol, and everything I should avoid, right??
Contrary to popular belief, that's totally false.
The yolk is filled with important fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K. Yes, it is a good source of vitamin D), water soluble B vitamins, antioxidants (hellooo glutathione), and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Plus it’s rich in minerals like zinc, calcium, and phosphorus. Not to mention it provides excellent flavor and makes you actually feel satiated after your meal, which is sort of the point of eating. After all, you don’t want to still be hungry after you eat a meal, right? (Fine, the bit about excellent flavor is subjective, but personally I think egg whites are tasteless and totally unsatisfying). If egg whites are your preference, I can't make you like something you simply don't. Just be careful if you buy them from the carton. They may contain artificial ingredients and additives that you’d otherwise want to avoid.
Now, I eat the whole egg and there’s no two ways about it for me, but I have to admit that I’m a total egg snob. I don’t just eat any whole egg. My eggs are pasture-raised, organic, cage-free, and sometimes with “omega-3’s.” But what does this all really mean? With so much terminology and nutrition buzzwords that saturate food labels, it’s hard to decipher the (often deceitful) linguistics of food marketing.
So let’s take the opportunity to do some decoding. These are terms commonly found on egg cartons that can confuse any label detective.
“Pasture-raised” or “Pastured” is ideal. It means the chickens were able to roam outside, as they pleased, and eat what they wanted (bugs, dirt, insects, yum!), as they pleased. These chickens aren’t cooped up and stressed out in tiny cages all their lives, meaning they’re producing (hopefully) happy eggs :)
“Free range” or “cage-free” are basically interchangeable terms that mean the chickens have access to some outdoor space and don't live in tiny cages all their lives. It doesn’t specify how much outdoor space or how often they’re outdoors. It also has nothing to do with what the chickens are actually fed.
“Antibiotic free” is a good thing. It means the chickens are not given antibiotics. But again, it doesn’t imply anything about their living conditions.
“Natural” means “minimally processed.” Which basically doesn’t mean anything.
“Fresh” is also pretty meaningless.
“Hormone-free” sounds like it should be meaningful, but it’s actually illegal to administer hormones to laying hens. So it doesn't hold much weight either.
“Omega-3 eggs” are a good thing! It means the chickens are fed flax seeds, which are rich sources of omega-3s.
“Organic” eggs are a good thing. It means that whatever the chickens are being fed are free of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. And that the chickens are not treated with antibiotics (or hormones, which again, are illegal).
“Vegetarian fed” basically means that the chickens weren’t eating other chickens. While that is a good thing, it’s important to note that chickens are NOT vegetarians by nature! Chickens in the outdoors love eating whatever is in the dirt - worms, bugs, etc. Worms are obviously not vegetarian.
“Egg color” though not a term, egg color corresponds to the breed of hen that laid it. It does not reflect nutrition quality or taste.
Hopefully this helps you understand what is meaningful and what is bogus on an egg carton. While the best quality eggs are certainly slightly pricier than conventional, treated eggs, in my book the extra few dollars are definitely worth it.