Brown, White, Organic, Free-Range Eggs – What’s the Difference

by Tiffany Kail on August 20, 2013

When you go to the grocery store with eggs on your list, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the choices. It can be confusing when the humble egg comes in varieties like organic, free-range, cage-free, brown, white, Omega-3, and any combination of these. Is there really a difference? Which eggs are healthiest?

* Brown versus White Eggs – Perhaps it’s the earthy color, but for some reason many people consider brown eggs more “natural” than white ones. Others claim there is a difference in taste or nutritional value. While taste can differ between various types of eggs, what makes an egg brown is the breed of hen that laid it, not the conditions under which the hen is kept. Brown eggs are not necessarily more nutritious than white ones.

* Organic Eggs – Chickens that are fed organic feed produce eggs that can be labeled “organic.” Organic feed contains only those ingredients that are grown and produced without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides. Organic eggs therefore would have no traces of these chemicals. Also, for eggs to be labeled organic, the hens must not receive antibiotics or hormones.

* Vegetarian-Fed – Some egg cartons will note that the chickens are fed only vegetarian feed. That means that no animal products are included in the chickens’ feed. This labeling practice came about due to the controversial practice of mixing animal (including chicken) by-products in with the chickens’ feed. Eggs from vegetarian-fed chickens are less likely to harbor disease-causing organisms. But these hens may still be given hormones or antibiotics.

* Free-Range Eggs – What constitutes “free range” gets a bit dicey. In the United States, it really does not have a legal definition. It can (but not necessarily) mean that the chickens are allowed free access to fresh air, grass, and sunshine all day. It can also mean that the chickens are generally kept in close quarters and allowed outside (sometimes to a small enclosure) anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours each day.

buying eggs

Eggs that are laid by truly free-range hens – that is, ones that are allowed at least several hours outside every day – are nutritionally superior. They are higher in vitamin A and other nutrients due to the chickens’ access to greens and insects.

* Cage-Free Eggs – These eggs are laid by hens that are not kept in conventional “battery” cages. It does not mean they have access to the outdoors, nor does it mean the eggs have more nutrients. It also does not necessarily mean the hens are kept in large spaces. They may be crammed into a warehouse shoulder-to-shoulder, just without cages. They may also have a large space in which to move and live.

* Omega-3 Eggs – These eggs actually do have more Omega-3 fatty acids in them, because the laying hens are given flax seed, flax oil, or another source of this essential fatty acid in their feed. What goes into the chicken comes out in the egg!

* Alternative Sources – Find someone who keeps chickens whose practices you agree with, and arrange to buy eggs from them. Or keep chickens yourself. This is one way to avoid all the labeling confusion and what it means and doesn’t mean.

All in all, chickens that are fed a healthy diet and are allowed to live a natural life produce the healthiest eggs.

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About the author...

 is a personal trainer, certified yoga instructor, and certified health coach, and most importantly, a mom. She's a proponent of the clean eating approach because it's a complete lifestyle solution and she's seen her clients thrive on it more than any other healthy eating plan.

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