It’s the time of year for GREAT savings on eggs! But if you’ve been in the dairy aisle recently, you might have noticed the various types of eggs, and the prices that vary as well. Organic, cage free, free range…99 cents or $5 a dozen! Are eggs really that different between brands and labels? Yes! Are the higher priced eggs worth it? Maybe. As with most purchases, it’s up to the consumer to evaluate the differences and choose what’s best for their nutrition and their finances.
Here are answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Natural, Organic, and Cage-Free Eggs that might help you make an informed egg purchase.
What makes eggs all-natural?
All Natural eggs are produced by hens that are fed an all-natural whole grain diet consisting of primarily whole ground corn and soybean meal. There are no preservatives or antibiotics, or animal fat or animal by-products, added to the feed ration.
What about regular supermarket eggs?
Regular eggs found in the supermarket, under various brands, are typically produced by hens fed a diet supplemented by animal fats and by-products. These additives boost energy intake, which is cost effective in the production of ordinary supermarket eggs.
What makes an egg Organic ?
Organic eggs are produced by cage-free hens that are fed a diet that is all-natural, 100% USDA – certified organic, vegetarian diet. Grain used in organic feed must be produced on land that is free from the use of toxic chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers.
What does Cage Free mean?
Cage-Free eggs are produced by hens housed in a cage-free protected area where they are free to roam, perch, scratch and nest. Cage Free hens receive natural sunlight, shade, shelter, an exercise area, fresh air, and are protected from predators. Cage Free chickens are typically fed an organic, natural feed as well.
What are Omega-3 or Omega–supplemented eggs?
Eggs with Omega-3 are produced by hens fed a Natural, Vegetarian diet, enhanced with flax-seed oil, and other natural sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. As a result, each egg contains higher levels of omega-3.
What is the difference between brown eggs and white-shelled eggs?
The breed of hen determines the color of the egg shell. Breeds with white feathers, such as the Single-Comb White Leghorns, produce white-shelled eggs; breeds with red feathers, such as the Rhode Island Red, lay brown eggs. There is no difference between white and brown egg quality, nutritive value, or cooking characteristics.
Is the care of hens producing Natural, Organic, and Cage Free eggs certified?
Yes. All farms and facilities involved with the production of Eggs meet the Animal Care Certification Guidelines endorsed by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA).
What is the purpose of the “Grade A” and “USDA” logo on the front panel of the carton?
The classification of an egg is determined by the interior and exterior quality of the egg, according to standards established by USDA.
There are many eggs packaged that carry a “Grade A” or “Grade AA” statement, but the USDA shield is additional confirmation to consumers of strict quality standards. Although not required, and certainly more expensive, in-house USDA inspectors provide an independent audit of shell egg quality as part of the full-time quality assurance program.
What does the “USDA Organic” seal on the carton signify?
The USDA Organic seal on the carton assures consumers that this product are certified organic by independent agencies accredited by the UDSA. In order to qualify for USDA organic certification, the grains used for our hens’ diets must be produced on land that has been free from the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers for a minimum of three years. Genetically engineered crops are not permitted and hens must be maintained without hormones, antibiotics, and other intrusive drugs.
What do the “sell by” or “best before” dates on the carton really mean?
Since all Grade A and Grade AA All-Natural Eggs are USDA inspected, the “sell by” date represents the maximum days allowed by federal and/or state laws between the actual date the eggs were inspected and packaged, and the date when they should be sold from the retail store. “Best before” dates represent the recommended date by which to use the eggs while they’re still Grade A or Grade AA quality (when properly refrigerated).
The date is beneficial in two ways. First, it provides the customer a guideline as to when the eggs should be sold from the retail shelves or consumed at their best quality. Second, it provides store personnel with a visual means to implement proper product rotation.
How long after the “sell by” or “best before” date can I eat the eggs?
Under proper refrigeration there isn’t a definite timetable for defining an egg as either good or bad. Many eggs are still good (from the standpoint of nutritional content) for weeks, maybe even months after the code date. However, visual appearance and odor should be the determining factors as to whether or not an egg should be consumed.
What is the risk of salmonella for these eggs?
All-Natural Eggs are produced under a very rigid SE (Salmonella Enteritis) prevention program. The hen’s environment is tested for SE at hatch date, through the pullet grow-out period and throughout the lay cycle. Of course, all eggs should still be handled and prepared properly to prevent cross-contamination, which could result in food-borne illness. Eggland’s Best asserts that they have further reduced the risk of salmonella because the all-vegetarian, high-quality hen feed has no animal fat, no animal by-products, and no recycled or processed food which could be contaminated.
Why do Natural and Organic Eggs cost more than regular eggs?
The special all-natural diet is much more expensive than the ration used for regular egg production. This diet gives All-Natural Eggs a darker and richer tasting yolk. The highest fresh egg quality control program possible backs our eggs and provides our customers consistent high-quality products.
Are the clear plastic or foam egg cartons environmentally friendly and recyclable?
Yes. Recycle them as you would a soda bottle. In addition, Natural and Organic eggs are typically packaged in 100% recycle material made 100% from recycled materials, and take additional steps to reduce waste and promote superior environmental practices.
How do you store eggs?
Keep eggs refrigerated at 45°F (4°C) or lower at all times.
Keep eggs in the main body of the fridge (not the door). This will keep them at a more constant, colder temperature.
Keep eggs in their original cartons. This will protect them from taking on any off-odors from any strong-smelling goods in the fridge (onions, strong cheeses, or meats).
Don’t keep eggs out of the refrigerator. An egg stored in refrigeration for one week will be fresher than one stored at room temperature for just one day!
Do you need only egg whites or yolks for a particular recipe? Don’t throw out the leftover whites or yolks. Save them for use in other recipes. Store the whites in tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator up to 10 days (label the amounts so there is no guessing). Store the yolks for two days, covering them with a little cold water to prevent them from drying up. Drain the water before using.
How can you tell if an egg is fresh?
Place the egg in a bowl or pan with enough cold water to cover the egg:
If the egg lies on its side on the bottom, the air cell within is small and it’s very fresh.
If the egg stands up and bobs on the bottom, the air cell is larger and it isn’t quite as fresh.
If the egg floats on the surface, it should be discarded.