Hi everyone! I hope you are having a great week so far.
I LOVE grocery shopping. I don’t know why, but I truly enjoy visiting grocery stores in new places, especially new states and new countries. @Maine – you have great seafood (duh), and @France – I miss your stracciatella yogurt and cheese <3. There’s something about wandering the aisles to find new products, check out ingredients, and look at local produce that is almost therapeutic for me! As much as I love grocery stores, though, I feel like every time I go to the grocery store, it takes me probably an extra 20 minutes to shop just because of the food labels, trying to decipher what they mean, and choosing what is going to provide me the most nutrition while also trying to sort out the bullsh*t.
Eggs are a staple in my diet – they are relatively cheap; they provide several vitamins, and increase HDL (“good cholesterol”). Since I tend to eat a lot of them, I try to ensure that I’m getting the best quality to provide me the most nourishment. Over the last few years, I’ve probably bought all the labels, thinking that some were the best or at least better than others. If you haven’t watched it already, I highly recommend watching the movie “Super Size Me 2”. It is a really great example of how a lot of the labels don’t mean a ton. In the spirit of ~health coaching~ I wanted to provide you a go-to spot for what the labels ACTUALLY mean, so your next trip to the grocery store for breakfast (or lunch or dinner no judgment) is a little bit easier.
Cage-Free: The birds are raised without cages, but doesn’t specify if they are inside or outside. No, this doesn’t mean that the birds get to frolic freely; it most likely means that they are kept in an aviary, just outside of a cage.
Farm-Fresh: Honestly, this doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just meant to paint a pretty picture in your head.
Free-Range: Companies can use this label as long as the birds have “access” to the outdoors, but it doesn’t mean that the animals spent the majority of their time outdoors. Poultry farmers can quite literally put a small fence a few feet outside of their aviary so the birds can momentarily step outside for their eggs and birds to be considered free-range.
Hormone-Free: There are many companies who say that their eggs are “hormone-free,” BUT this label also actually doesn’t mean anything. By law, in the US, poultry cannot be given any hormones, so technically, all eggs can be considered hormone-free.
Local: The birds were raised/the eggs were hatched within 100 miles of where they are being purchased. This label simply notes that the eggs may be more fresh, taste better, and notes that the eggs were sourced somewhat nearby.
Natural: USDA guidelines state that “natural” poultry products can only undergo minimal processing and contain no artificial colors, ingredients, flavors, or preservatives.
Pasture-Raised: The birds were raised on pasture, with the option to go inside if they want to. The birds get to eat grass, plants, and bugs rather than grain from a feedlot or barn.
Omega-3: Many egg cartons mention “Omega-3”, this means that the birds were likely fed a diet that included flax seeds to increase the amount of Omega-3s in the eggs.
Organic: Must meet USDA guidelines: no application of prohibited materials (including but not limited to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) for three years prior to certification and during licensing, no GMOs and irradiation, positive soil building and management practices, outdoor access, no antibiotic and/or hormone use, 100% organic feed, no contamination during processing, and record-keeping of all operations. If a product has a USDA organic seal, it actually means that 95%-100% of the ingredients are organic, while a label can reflect “organic ingredients” if 70%-95% of the ingredients are organic.
As you can tell, there is a lot of confusion, and honestly, quite a bit of manipulation in labeling. This is not just limited to eggs, but I find that it is extremely prevalent for them. The kind of eggs that you buy is up to you, of course. Some of you may be partial to a certain brand or color of the eggshell (this doesn’t mean anything, but some people still have preferences). If your budget can manage it, I highly recommend pasture-raised eggs. Studies show that pastured eggs had twice as much vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids as eggs that came from caged hens. The birds eat a more natural diet with more nutrition, so they pass on more of these vitamins onto you! Here are some of the eggs that I love to buy (not an ad, just love these!): https://vitalfarms.com/. Eggs, in general, will be a great source of vitamins for you, so don’t worry too much about this.
My goal is to build up as much awareness for the community as possible so that you all can help feed yourselves and your families the most nutritious food, and make the best choices. Hopefully, this brings some clarity to the labels used for eggs, but if not, feel free to share any questions you may have with me.