Descrambled Eggs: A Buyer’s Guide

nina | February 18th, 2011 - 9:00 am

A hen usually lays only one egg a day, sop imagine all the birds required to produce the 72 billion eggs that Americans consume each year.

No wonder eggs are so popular: they pack a powerful nutritional punch. The yolk naturally contains zinc & vitamins D, E & A. The white (called the albumen) is rich in protein, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulfur, and niacin. It’s true that eggs are high in cholesterol: one egg has about 215 milligrams – and the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is just 300 milligrams. With so many people concerned about cholesterol count, it’s not surprising that egg white omelets have become such a popular option on restaurant menus.

There are so many different “varieties” of eggs available – not to mention by the variations in price. Hopefully the following egg-splanations will be assistance to you when buying eggs.

Hormone-Free.  It may as well read “rip-off”! Because the hormones in poultry has been banned since the 1960’s, all eggs are by law hormone-free.

Natural.  This is another meaningless term. According to regulations from the USDA and FDA, no additives or colors can ever be added to eggs.

Cage-Free or Free-Roaming.  Over 90% of hens are raised in cages that are between 48 and 608 square inches. Birds that are cage-free or free-roaming are not caged; however, they likely were still raised within the confines of a small building and generally do not have access to the out doors. So this isn’t much of a distinction and often not worth the higher price.

Free-Range.  This term means that the hens have access to an outdoor area, which could mean anything from a concrete paved slab to a beautiful grassy pasture. Because of their more relaxed living conditions, these hens produce few eggs, making those eggs more costly to produce. These eggs generally have the same nutritional content.

Grass-Fed.  There is no USDA-approved definition of this term when it comes to hens. Grass fed hens are usually allowed to roam freely, so they eat a variety of things found in their natural habitat: grass, bugs, and whatever else they may catch & kill.

Rich in Omega-3’s.  Omega-3s are a type of unsaturated fatty acid essential for healthy human metabolism that the body cannot produce. The result of feeding hens a diet high in omega-3s is then passed through to the eggs. It is probably worth paying extra for these if you do not eat other omega-3-rich foods, such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, & flaxseed.

USDA-Certified Organic.  This means that the hens have eaten only organic feed and grain grown without fungicides, herbicides, commerical fertilizers, or pesticides, and their diet has contained no animal or poultry by-products. The hens have not received any antibiotics or growth hormones, and they’ve been allowed access to the outdoors. The expense of these eggs is due to the lower output per hen and higher production costs.

Does Size Matter?  Egg size reflects the age of the hen: the older she is, the larger the egg. Breed, weight, and living conditions (such as heat, stress, overcrowding, or poor nutrition) can also affect size.

Egg grades.  AA, A & B – refer to the ratio and quality of white to yolk and to the condition of the shell. Grade AA and A eggs have thicker whites; firmer, more round yolks; and cleaner shells then Grade B. Nutritionally speaking, eggs are the same regardless of grade.

Storing eggs.  Properly refrigerated, eggs can keep up to one month beyond the the use date printed on the carton. Keep your eggs stored in the carton you purchased them in. By keeping them on the door of your refrigerator, they will obsorb odors from other foods and the tray prevents proper air flow.

Source:  AARP; 1/31/2011

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