Eggs: Free-Range, Free-Roaming, Cage-Free or Pastured?

“I’ve been treating eating disorders (ED’s) and obesity for nearly 25 years and have always had good outcomes. My rate of success improved dramatically, however, when I discovered the critical role that processed food plays in causing as well as in preventing recovery from Anorexia, Bulimia, Bulimarexia, (a combination of the two) Binge Eating Disorder (BED,) Emotional Eating and Obesity. To this end, I find it of great importance to provide both my patients and readers with relevant nutrition information to aid in their recovery. You can view all my Nutrition, Fitness, and Health articles here.Free-Range, Free-Roaming, Cage-Free, Pastured…..just a few of the labels you may come see when you are shopping for eggs at your local grocery store. It can be quite overwhelming to decipher all these labels to determine which type of egg is healthiest. Let’s take a look at some of these labels and figure out what type of eggs are the best choice.The terms “free-range”, “free-roaming”, and “cage-free” are not currently regulated by the government. “Free-roaming” and “cage-free” chickens live a cage-free life and are allowed to roam freely, as long as it is within the four walls of their barn. “Free-range” chickens live in slightly better conditions; they are allowed to leave the barn, but many times the areas they have access to usually are dirt-surfaced or concrete-surfaced areas.The term “pastured” means that the eggs came from chickens that are cage-free in a grassy pasture. Eggs from pastured chickens are generally more nutritious since the diet of the chickens includes bugs and earthworms. In comparison, non-pastured chickens are fed a processed feed. Check out the ingredients of one popular feed that is made specifically for chickens living in confined areas:

Grain Products, Plant Protein Products, Processed Grain Byproducts, Roughage Products, Forage, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Choline Chloride, Folic Acid, Manadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Methionine Supplement, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Manganous Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Chloride, Zinc Oxide, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Sodium Selenite.

How does the nutritional value of eggs from chickens that are raised in confined areas compare to eggs from pastured chickens? Eggs from pastured chickens contain:

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene

I found these statistics on the Mother Earth News Website:

  • In 1974, the British Journal of Nutrition found that pastured eggs had 50 percent more folic acid and 70 percent more vitamin B12 than eggs from factory farm hens.
  • In 1988, Artemis Simopoulos, co-author of The Omega Diet, found pastured eggs in Greece contained 13 times more omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than U.S. commercial eggs.
  • A 1998 study in Animal Feed Science and Technology found that pastured eggs had higher omega-3s and vitamin E than eggs from caged hens.
  • A 1999 study by Barb Gorski at Pennsylvania State University found that eggs from pastured birds had 10 percent less fat, 34 percent less cholesterol, 40 percent more vitamin A, and four times the omega-3s compared to the standard USDA data. Her study also tested pastured chicken meat, and found it to have 21 percent less fat, 30 percent less saturated fat and 50 percent more vitamin A than the USDA standard.
  • In 2003, Heather Karsten at Pennsylvania State University compared eggs from two groups of Hy-Line variety hens, with one kept in standard crowded factory farm conditions and the other on mixed grass and legume pasture. The eggs had similar levels of fat and cholesterol, but the pastured eggs had three times more omega-3s, 220 percent more vitamin E and 62 percent more vitamin A than eggs from caged hens.
  • The 2005 study Mother Earth News conducted of four heritage-breed pastured flocks in Kansas found that pastured eggs had roughly half the cholesterol, 50 percent more vitamin E, and three times more beta carotene.
The verdict? Definitely go with pasture-raised eggs when at all possible. They may be more expensive than other eggs, but the benefits are well worth it. The owner of the Cheeseslave blog posted a great comparison that is a really good example of just how economical pastured eggs really are:“Let’s say you pay $5 for a dozen pastured eggs. That means each egg costs about 42 cents. A “large” egg is about 2 ounces, so you’re paying 20 cents per ounce.
  • Twenty cents, people. How does that compare to other foods of a similar nutrient density?
  • Raw grass fed organic butter ($8 per pound): 50 cents per ounce
  • Raw grass fed organic cream ($7 per pint): 44 cents per ounce
  • Pasteurized grass fed butter – ($5 per pound): 31 cents per ounce
  • Grass fed organic ground beef ($4 per pound): 25 cents per ounce
  • Grass fed organic beef liver ($3 per pound): 19 cents per ounce
  • Raw grass fed organic milk ($10.50 per gallon): 8 cents per ounce”
If you live in the Cincinnati area, you can get organic, pastured eggs for $3 per dozen at Red Sun Farm in Loveland. Look at these beauties!
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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. //’


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