Eggs can be a great eco-friendly food and nutrient dense protein source. Eggs have been a hot topic over the years. What kind of eggs do I buy? Are they healthy? Are they too high in cholesterol?
Cage free vs. Free range vs. Pasture raised eggs
Cage free eggs mean that the hens laying the eggs are raised in an environment where they can walk freely and have room to stand and spread their wings. Cage free hens are still confined to a hen house or barn with about 1 sq. ft of space per hen. It does not mean they have access to outdoors.
Free range eggs mean that the hens laying the eggs are raised in an environment where they can walk freely and will also have access to the outdoors. In the US, there is not any regulation on the quality of outdoor environment or the amount of time the hens are allowed outside. These hens are ensured about 2 sq. ft of space per hen.
Pasture raised eggs mean that the hens laying the eggs are raised with full access to the outdoors, with ample space per hen (108 sq. ft!). They roam outside during the day, nibble on insects, grass, and seeds as a compliment to their feed. At night, they are back in their protected shelter or coop.
Environmentally, there are a few ways to view what the most sustainable option is. Pasture raised eggs require far more land compared to free range and cage free eggs. On the other hand, cage free and free range have issues related to waste product accumulation and high ammonia, methane, and nitrous oxide levels due to the concentrated nature of the living environment.
The egg industry has made major changes over the years, however! Compared to the 1960s, egg production today produces about 70% less greenhouse gas emissions and have reduced water usage by 30%.
Health benefits of eggs
Talk about one of the most nutrient dense sources of protein! The yolk being the most nutrient dense part of the egg happens to be one of the best dietary sources of choline. Choline is important in many aspects of human health including brain health, pregnancy, child development, and healthy aging.
Besides choline, you will find nearly 6 grams of high quality protein per large egg and and 13 essential vitamins and minerals. Selenium, Iodine, Folate, Phosphorus, Vitamins A, D, and E, and many of the B vitamins, to name a few.
Eggs are a significant source of dietary cholesterol, which can be concerning for people with high blood levels of cholesterol. Research is revealing that the cholesterol and fat found in eggs do not raise blood cholesterol nearly as much as other food sources of trans fats and saturated fats. A diet low in fiber and nutrients from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will also contribute.
A person’s overall diet is the larger piece of the puzzle to analyze. Food choices made throughout the rest of the day and week are far more important than whether eggs are present or not. However, you can feel good about including eggs in your diet, as they are good source for many nutrients.
When it comes to nutrients found in different husbandry methods for raising hens and producing eggs, there are some differences. Hens raised with access to outdoors, where they have access to a varied diet of insects and seeds in addition to typical hen feed, have more nutrient dense eggs. Studies have shown pasture raised eggs contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin A.
The bottom line
While a pasture raised egg will be the most nutrient dense, have optimal living conditions for hens, other egg options will still prove to be a nutritious protein choice.
You can feel good about including eggs in your daily or weekly diet! What better way then trying out this dreamy egg salad with dill?
The Best Dreamy Dilled Egg Salad
- 8 whole eggs
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 2 whole scallions chopped
- 1 tsp mustard dijon
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp fresh dill substitute 1 tsp dry dill
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- To hard boil eggs, bring a saucepan of water to a gentle boil. Using a spider spatula, or large slotted spoon, add eggs to water. Simmer for 9 minutes. Remove eggs and put in an ice bath. Let eggs chill for about 10 minutes before removing the shell.
- While the eggs are cooking, mix up all remaining ingredients to make the dressing. Mix well to incorporate.
- Once egg shells are removed, finely chop eggs into small pieces. Add egg to dressing and mix well.
- Chill for at least one hour before assembling sandwiches. This easy egg salad can also be a salad topping or served with raw vegetables and crackers.