When you go to the grocery store, what do you typically buy? Maybe some milk, bread, eggs, vegetables, and meat? Do you wonder how these foods are made or where they come from? Are you concerned with the nutritional value of the staple items you buy every week? If you’re curious about the origins of the foods you eat every day, you certainly aren’t alone. Lately, the US and global poultry and egg industries have been under attack for many reasons- from Salmonella to humane caging systems for the chickens. Today, the consumer-to-farmer disconnect is bigger than ever, mostly because larger concentrations of people live further and further from the farms that produce food. Some people think all animal agriculture is terrible and should be illegal. But consumers aren’t to blame here- they simply want to know more about their food. I want to now introduce you to the top five things I wish people knew about eggs.
1. The egg is one of nature’s most complete and wholesome foods.
Each egg packs six grams of powerful protein for building and maintaining muscles in the body. Eggs have no carbohydrates and no sugar, with only 70 calories. Additionally, these tiny powerhouses provide with many essential micronutrients that most people don’t consider, yet are very important to a healthy diet. Eggs provide Vitamin B12 (for energy!), Biotin (for healthy skin and hair!), Choline (for a healthy metabolism!), Molybdenum (for enzyme activity!), Selenium (for cognitive function!), Zinc (for a healthy immune system!), and Riboflavin (for cellular respiration!), just to name a few (American Egg Board, 2016).
2. All eggs are nearly identical in nutritional value.
Some consumers today think the brown-shelled eggs are healthier than white-shelled eggs. The only difference between brown and white eggs is the breed of the chicken that laid it. Additionally, there is no difference in the nutrition of an egg that came from a caged hen versus an egg that came from a cage-free or free-range hen. The only thing that may possibly alter an egg’s nutritional content would be the diet of a hen, but this is very minimal. For example, a free-range hen kept outside for most of the day will scavenge for insects, grasses, flowers, and different types of grains. Because of the addition of insects in the hen’s diet, the eggs may have a slightly higher fat content than commercial eggs. Due to different kinds of plants the free-range bird may snack on, the yolks of its eggs may be darker yellow, but the nutritional value will not be impacted.
3. Animal welfare is of the highest concern of the farmer.
There’s no one that is more concerned about the safety of the hens than the farmer. As a result of the intensive research that has gone into poultry housing systems throughout the years, several types of caging systems are now used. The most common system is called the battery cage system, which you may have heard of on the news or in pending legislation. Battery cages sometimes earn a bad reputation because they give the birds less room to move around, but also keep them much safer from other aggressive birds than other caging systems. Enriched colony systems typically group several hundred birds together in one very large cage. This space is decked out with laying pads and other do-dads to allow the hens to exhibit natural behavior, but still be productive. The other typically used system is a cage-free aviary where several thousand birds are put in each barn without cages. There are perches set at all levels of the barn so the hens don’t all sit on the floor. While this system allows the bird to exhibit it’s most natural behaviors, it also sees the highest rate of bird injury and disease. Every type of system is inspected daily to meet very high standards of bird welfare so you can rest assured knowing that your eggs came from a happy and healthy hen.
4. Food safety is highly valued by everyone in the egg industry.
In addition to strict animal welfare, each site that handles eggs or birds is held to extremely high food safety standards. Each barn is sanitized on a regular schedule to prevent the spread of disease and bacteria that can cause infection. Workers in barns are specially trained to identify sickly birds and remove them from production, so you’ll only get eggs from healthy birds. The barns and egg processing facilities are all inspected daily to assure quality and cleanliness. Additionally, all eggs sold commercially are pasteurized to kill any bacteria that could potentially cause food-borne illness from improper cooking. This is great insurance that your breakfast won’t make you queasy.
5. Eggs just make cent$!
Lastly, and perhaps of most importance to you, eggs are an extremely economical choice in the grocery store. At approximately $0.05 per egg in 2017, eggs just make sense. No wonder they can be found in nearly every refrigerator in America and around the world.
There you have it. What other food is widely available, provides an array of essential nutrients, and tastes amazing? Whether you’re looking for a delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack, look no further than the incredible edible egg.