Are organic eggs really better for you? Does it matter it they are white or brown? Our green product specialist Joyce Newman weighs in.
It’s almost Easter and so our thoughts turn to eggs. On a recent trip to the local Trader Joe’s, my shopping list included a few dozen—some just for decorating and others for regular cooking and baking. But it got me thinking. If I’m just decorating the eggs, not eating them, shouldn’t I buy the cheapest white ones? And then for cooking and eating, which should I get? There are so many different labels and prices. Is it worth it to buy the more expensive, certified “USDA organic” brown ones? Or not?
According to most experts, there’s really no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs. Some hens happen to lay brown ones; other hens lay white ones—it just depends on the breed of hen. However, when it comes to the way hens are raised and fed, there are some big differences.
In fact, the vitamin and omega-3 content of eggs depend a lot on the hen’s diet—and those are important nutrients for our diet too. Hens that are fed a vegetarian diet can have more omega-3s and more of some vitamins in their eggs—and that goes for brown as well as white eggs. As long as “vegetarian-fed” is on the label, it means that the hens have been fed an all-grain diet. So that’s a label term that’s worth looking for.
A vegetarian diet for hens also might include flax or flax seed oils, fish oils and other ingredients that can really boost those desirable omega-3 fatty acids, which is why “Omega-3s” on the label is also worth looking for. It’s true for both white and brown eggs.
If hens are raised on feed grown without synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, antibiotics, or fertilizers, and with “some access” to the outdoors, then their eggs can be certified organic by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “USDA Organic” eggs, whether white or brown, are likely to cost more than conventional eggs in part because of the requirements for certification. But by spending a little more, you’ll be avoiding a lot of risks associated with all those chemicals.
You also should know that the USDA doesn’t really enforce the outdoor access rule very well, according to Consumer Reports and other experts. The amount, duration, or quality of outdoor access isn’t specified in the government’s standards. Therefore, as we have previously reported, terms like “cage-free” and “free-range” don’t necessarily mean the hens go running around outdoors all day. They may just wander around inside for a very short time.
Whatever eggs you choose, check the date on the carton–it should be as far away from your purchase date as possible. The fresher the eggs, whether brown or white, the better.