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Free Range Eggs Are Best

In addition to being a great source of protein, eggs contain antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and other health-promoting substances. However, recent studies have shown that not all eggs are created equal.

There are many types of eggs available, including organic, free range, free run, and regular eggs with no special classification. Free range hens are not kept in cages and they have outdoor access at least part of the time. Eggs labeled “organic” are also free range because to obtain the organic label, the hens that produce them must be allowed to go outdoors. However, there are much stricter guidelines for organic eggs. For example, hens producing organic eggs cannot be given hormones and their outdoor space must be free of pesticides. Animal welfare requirements also tend to be higher for organic farms.

Free run chickens are not caged but usually live permanently confined in crowded barns with no outdoor access. Most regular eggs come from battery cage chickens that live out their short, miserable lives squashed together in cages too small to allow natural movement or comfort.

The results of seven studies reported by Long and Alterman (2007) indicate that free range eggs are higher in vitamins E and B12, beta carotene, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids than eggs produced by caged chickens. In addition, most of the studies that compared fat levels in eggs found free range eggs to be significantly lower in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Why are free range eggs less fattening and more nutritious? Hens that eat a natural diet consume seeds, plants, insects, and worms, whereas battery cage hens are typically maintained on cheap soy, corn, or cottonseed feed supplemented with artificial additives. Given the differences in diet and lifestyle between free ranging hens and those confined to battery cages, it is not surprising that free range eggs are nutritionally superior.

Sources:

Long, C., & Alterman, T., “Meet the Real Free-Range Eggs,” Mother Earth News, 2007
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-Healthier-Eggs.aspx

Nelson, J., “Are Some Eggs Safer Than Others?” WebMD, 25 August 2010
http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/egg-types-benefits-facts

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