Possibly one of the most intimidating places in the grocery store is the egg shelf with so many options it can be hard to figure out what to buy. From free-range to pasture raised to vegetarian-fed, is it really worth paying almost $1-2 extra for a certain type of egg? Are different color eggshells better than the other? These are all probably questions flooding your mind as you stand there staring into the refrigerator shelves.
Lucky for you, the most common terms in the egg department have been cracked (pun intended).
Brown or White Shells
Plain and simple—shell color does NOT dictate the quality of the egg, nor nutritional supremacy. The color of the egg is simply a result of varying hen genetics. Why the price difference? Chickens that produce brown eggs typically require more feed, thus costing more per egg.
Egg Grades (AA, A, B)
If something is AA then it’s significantly healthier, right? Wrong. The grade of the egg has nothing to do with nutrition quality. It has everything to do with the quality and appearance of the egg white and shell. The higher the grade means the thicker the egg white, which comes in handy for different types of cooking methods. Grade AA is ideal for frying and poaching since the egg white and yolk will keep its shape. Grade A is a great option for hard cooking, while Grade B is often used for baked goods.
This can be a fuzzy term for some consumers. Essentially certified organic eggs are free of antibiotics and hormones, although other egg types legally allow no trace hormones. Also, certified organic eggs may actually be more nutritious than the conventional egg type if the chicken was allowed to graze in a cage-free environment.
Free Range and Cage-free
The idea of an animal cooped up its entire life horrifies certain individuals. Careful with these terms, since it doesn’t necessarily promise the chickens were absolutely outside. Simply, the chickens are allowed to roam around inside without being in a cage, and possibly be allowed access to the outdoors for a certain amount of time. However, there is no requirement for the chickens to go outdoors if it does not choose to wander. Most agree that this term isn’t enough of a reason to pay the extra costs.
Eggs already have a decent amount of omega-3s. Not worth the extra money for a buzzword.
Multiple studies have shown that free roaming chickens with access to a variety of foods, such as insects and different vegetation have the best nutritional value. Most of the time you have to find a farmer nearby or at a farmer’s market who specifically raise these types of chickens. Depending on where you live, this option could be cheaper or more expensive.
Eggs are an egg-cellent way of getting your protein, good cholesterol and fats, along with essential vitamins and minerals that help boost brain health. Whatever egg type you choose after your egg hunt; know that you’re picking a food that will be nutritious and filling.
Jackie Parker currently a senior nutritional sciences student on the dietetics track at Texas A&M University.