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Are Cage-Free Eggs More Nutritious? | Davey Wavey Fitness

Are Cage-Free Eggs More Nutritious?

Free_range_chicken_flockWhen you go to the market to pick up eggs, you’ll see labels like cage-free, free-range and organic. It begs the question: What do these labels really mean? And are any of these eggs healthier than others?

Before we talk nutrition, let’s cover the different types of eggs you’ll encounter.

Standard Eggs

These are the inexpensive eggs that most consumers purchase. In fact, 97% of eggs purchased in the United States fall into this category and are laid by hens living in battery cages. While this method of egg farming is cheap and efficient, the conditions for hens are poor; cages are very crowded and hens never see the outdoors.

Cage-Free Eggs

Most people are surprised to learn that conditions for cage-free hens aren’t much better than those experienced by battery cage hens. Though these hens don’t have cages, they usually live on the floor of a barn with little room to move – though it can be different from farm to farm. These hens have perches and some nesting materials. It’s also worth noting that there is very little oversight for cage-free claims, so the actual farm conditions may vary from the packaging.

Free-Range Eggs

These hens experience the highest quality of life, and usually have access to nesting boxes, perches and the outdoors. Because these hens are less tightly controlled and the process is less efficient, free-range eggs tend to be quite pricey.

Organic Eggs

The USDA defines organic eggs as coming from hens who were fed no antibiotics, growth hormones or animal byproducts. In order to quality for the organic label, the diet fed to the hens must have been grown on land that hasn’t used toxic or chemical pesticides and fertilizer for at least three years. Organic does not mean that the hens were treated particularly well, nor does the USDA require organic eggs to be from cage-free or free-range hens. Having said that, most organic egg producers raise cage-free hens.

So which eggs are the healthiest? According to at least one study, there are no nutritional differences among the different egg types. Nonetheless, moral questions persist and each of us must decide how we want our food treated.

The best bet is to find a local farmer who sells eggs. Visit his or her farm. See how the hens live. And then decide for yourself.

In the comments below, let me know which type of eggs you buy and why!

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  1. We have our own free range chickens. This option is not mention. Not sure of the scientific nutrition values but no one fails to see the difference between our eggs and store bought. Store bought are almost always described as anemic. My opinion is they are better, but I have no lab. Measure my opinion as fact. ๐Ÿ™‚ love your postings.

  2. Victor Raymond says:

    I get eggs from my partner’s co-worker, whose daughter raises chickens as a 4H project. While not certified as “organic” and “free-range” they might as well be, given the descriptions of how the chickens are raised and fed. And they taste REALLY good – much better than store-bought eggs.

  3. Jeremy Baker says:

    Professor Anderson’s research is interesting, but it focussed on a single variable – whether the birds were caged or able to walk around a range. Otherwise they were treated identically – including being *fed* the same feed. It is not clear from the abstract if the birds kept in a ‘range’ had access to pasture or wild food sources. What this study seems to show is that simply allowing birds to walk around – all other factors being held constant – doesn’t statistically influence the nutritional content of the eggs.

  4. We live on a large acreage and have a free ranging group of hens and 1 rooster. We give them a few handfuls of corn in the evening before they settle into their henhouse, but in the daytime they forage for themselves, eating bugs, plants, whatever they find that catches their eye around our 20 acres and the adjoining fields. They lay eggs with almost orange yolks. Friends and family BEG for our eggs. They are far better than the average store bought egg.

  5. When I’m forced to buy eggs, I buy the free-range, organic. Luckily I have a friend who supplies me from the chickens on her farm, and they are free-range, organic as well. More nutritious, maybe, but definitely healthier since I know I’m not digesting chemicals and unwanted hormones. They have a vibrant color and excellent taste. The best part, since my dog and I love hard boiled eggs, I don’t have the sulfur burps and he doesn’t gas me out with the sulfur farts…lol.

  6. I buy free range. In my country, I think nearly half of all eggs are free range. I’m trying to go vegan (badly), but free range is better than nothing.

  7. Eggs have been a hot topic recently. I am not surprised to find that there is little nutritional (or none as claimed here) difference between eggs. The egg is a great source of nutrition to begin with and it really does come down to a cost and ethical choice.

  8. There is one thing to add: free-range and organic can actually contain more contaminants than the others. Because living outdoors, the hens have much more contact to viruses and bacteria in the environment.