Unscrambling Myths About Eggs

Photo: istockphoto.com/Chris_Elwell
White or brown? Free range or organic? Which are the healthiest eggs for your family?

Birds of a feather

There is no nutritional difference between white and brown eggs. It all comes down to feathers. Hens with white feathers produce white eggs. Hens with brown feathers produce brown eggs. More exotic breeds such as the araucana or ameraucana produce blue eggs. Of course, when you start to dye your Easter eggs you'll want to use white eggs.

An egg is an egg is egg

Contrary to popular belief, brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs. And the colour of the yolk has nothing to do with an egg's nutritional value but rather everything to do with a hen's diet. The more carotene or vitamin A eaten by the hen the more yellow the yolk. But pale yolks are just as nutritious as dark ones.

One per day

Eggs have gotten a bad rap from the cholesterol crowd. But according to a study done at Harvard University, eating one egg per day does not increase the risk of heart disease or stroke. The Harvard study's team of nutritionists, epidemiologists and physicians tracked 115,000 men and women and measured their health against egg consumption. They concluded that healthy people can eat an egg a day without raising their cholesterol to harmful levels.

Not so free

When we hear "free-range" we imagine happy chickens clucking around the yard in the sunshine. But since it's not a legal industry term, free-range is essentially meaningless when describing eggs. To use the label, chickens must have access to the outdoor—but being in a crowded pen with an open door or being in a barn with a window qualifies as free-range. You can get around this by finding a trustworthy supplier that raises chickens locally and without cages.

Organic is better

Organic eggs are healthier since organically raised chicken are not given antibiotics (growth hormones for poultry are not legal in Canada). The new Canadian Organic Standard, which came into force in June 30, 2009, requires that organic livestock management aim "to utilize natural breeding methods, minimize stress, prevent disease, progressively eliminate the use of chemical allopathic veterinary drugs (including antibiotics), and maintain animal health and welfare."

Under this standard, chickens must have access to the outdoors including pastures. However, standards vary in direct proportion to the size of the farm. The larger the farm the more crowding there will be along with practices such as debeaking. The secret is to find a small local source (usually at the farmers' market or farm stand).

Egg trivia

  • There are now 200 breeds of chickens.
  • An average hen lays 300 to 325 eggs a year.
  • A hen starts laying eggs at 19 weeks of age.
  • A hen must eat four pounds of feed to make a dozen eggs.
  • Occasionally, a hen will produce double-yoked eggs throughout her egg-laying career.
  • As a hen grows older she produces larger eggs.
  • The mother hen turns over her egg about 50 times per day so the yolk won't stick to the sides of the shell

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