What’s the Difference Between Cage-Free, Free-Range, Pasture-Raised, and Organic Eggs?

Brette Warshaw wrote . . . . . . . . .

Unless you have a chicken coop in your backyard, or the access to and budget for farm-fresh eggs every day, you’re probably spending some time in the supermarket egg aisle. And if you’re spending time in the supermarket egg aisle, you’re probably familiar with the assault of qualifiers and descriptors—Cage-free! Hormone-Free! Free-range! Local!—that awaits you there. Here’s what they all mean, and how to navigate them efficiently—so you can get to the rest of your grocery list.

Cage-free, a term regulated by the USDA, means that the eggs come from hens that, put simply, aren’t caged: they can “freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle, but [do] not have access to the outdoors.” Considering the conventional cage is 8 ½ by 11 inches, or the size of a piece of paper, this seems like a better lifestyle—but there are down sides, too; according to All About Eggs by Rachel Khong, cage-free facilities have more hen-on-hen violence and lower air quality than facilities that use cages.

Free-range, another USDA term, means that the eggs come from hens that have some sort of access to the outdoors. However, it doesn’t mean the hens actually go outdoors, or that the outdoor space is more than a small, fenced-in area with a netted cover.

Pasture-raised is not a term regulated by the USDA; however, if the carton says “pasture-raised” and also includes stamps with “Certified Humane” and/or “Animal Welfare Approved”, it means that each hen was given 108 square feet of outdoor space, as well as barn space indoors. This is pretty much as close to the bucolic, E-I-E-O farm vibe you’ll get when dealing with large-scale egg producers, so if you’re looking to support those practices, keep a look out for those labels.

For eggs to be Local, they must come from a flock located less than four hundred miles from the processing facility or within the same state. And for eggs to be Organic, the only stipulation is that they must come from hens who are fed an organic diet. Amount of space per hen, access to the outdoors—neither of those are specified or required, though many organic eggs are also at least free-range.

When it comes to eggs labeled Vegetarian-Fed, it’s worth noting that chickens are actually omnivorous; they love worms and bugs and larvae and other crawly things. However, in the mass-scale production sense, they’re not necessarily doing Whole30—they’re getting fed animal byproducts, like feather meal or chicken litter. So depending on the context, vegetarian-fed can actually be the lesser of two evils.

Hormone-free means that the hen wasn’t administered hormones, which isn’t particularly commendable—considering that hormones and steroids are already banned by the FDA. No Added Antibiotics is another funny term, because very few hens are administered antibiotics—and those that do end up being “diverted from human consumption” anyways.

So, given all of this information…what should you buy?

Cartons stamped with the Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved seal are good bets—both of which are administered by third-party groups. When it comes to brands, Vital Farms, Family Homestead, Oliver’s Organic, Happy Egg Co., and Pete and Gerry’s all have particularly good reputations, as well as Safeway’s cage-free eggs and Kirkland organic eggs at Costco.

Source: What’s the Difference

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Dietary Choline in Eggs and Meats Associates with Reduced Risk of Dementia

A new study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland is the first to observe that dietary intake of phosphatidylcholine is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Phosphatidylcholine was also linked to enhanced cognitive performance. The main dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine were eggs and meat. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Choline is an essential nutrient, usually occurring in food in various compounds. Choline is also necessary for the formation of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. Earlier studies have linked choline intake with cognitive processing, and adequate choline intake may play a role in the prevention of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, choline is nowadays used in a multinutrient medical drink intended for the treatment of early Alzheimer’s.

The new study now shows that the risk of dementia was 28% lower in men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine, when compared to men with the lowest intake. Men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine also excelled in tests measuring their memory and linguistic abilities. These findings are significant, considering that more than 50 million people worldwide are suffering from a memory disorder that has led to dementia, and the number is expected to grow as the population ages. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, for which no cure currently exists. The new findings may, therefore, play a vital role in the prevention of dementia. Successful dementia prevention is a sum of many things and in this equation, even small individual factors can have a positive effect on the overall risk, possibly by preventing or delaying the disease onset.

“However, this is just one observational study, and we need further research before any definitive conclusions can be drawn,” Maija Ylilauri, a PhD Student at the University of Eastern Finland points out.

The data for the study were derived from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, KIHD. At the onset of the study in 1984–1989, researchers analysed approximately 2,500 Finnish men aged between 42 and 60 for their dietary and lifestyle habits, and health in general. These data were combined with their hospital records, cause of death records and medication reimbursement records after an average follow-up period of 22 years. In addition, four years after the study onset, approximately 500 men completed tests measuring their memory and cognitive processing. During the follow-up, 337 men developed dementia.

The analyses extensively accounted for other lifestyle and nutrition related factors that could have explained the observed associations. In addition, the APOE4 gene, which predisposes to Alzheimer’s disease and is common in the Finnish population, was accounted for, showing no significant impact on the findings. The key sources of phosphatidylcholine in the study population’s diet were eggs (39%) and meat (37%).

Source: University of Eastern Finland


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Boiled “Colorful eggs” Sold in German Supermarket

The price is 1.69 € for one box of 6 eggs.

Study: Cholesterol in Eggs Tied to Cardiac Disease, Death

The risk of heart disease and death increases with the number of eggs an individual consumes, according to a UMass Lowell nutrition expert who has studied the issue.

Research that tracked the diets, health and lifestyle habits of nearly 30,000 adults across the country for as long as 31 years has found that cholesterol in eggs, when consumed in large quantities, is associated with ill health effects, according to Katherine Tucker, a biomedical and nutritional sciences professor in UMass Lowell’s Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, who co-authored the analysis. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study results come as egg consumption in the country continues to rise. In 2017, people ate an average of 279 eggs per year, compared with 254 eggs in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not offer advice on the number of eggs individuals should eat each day. The guidelines, which are updated every five years, do not include this because nutrition experts had begun to believe saturated fats were the driving factor behind high cholesterol levels, rather than eggs, according to Tucker. However, prior to 2015, the guidelines did recommend individuals consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day, she said.

One large egg contains nearly 200 milligrams of cholesterol, roughly the same amount as an 8-ounce steak, according to the USDA. Other foods that contain high levels of cholesterol include processed meats, cheese and high-fat dairy products.

While the new research does not offer specific recommendations on egg or cholesterol consumption, it found that each additional 300 milligrams of cholesterol consumed beyond a baseline of 300 milligrams per day was associated with a 17 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and an 18 percent higher risk of death.

Eating several eggs a week “is reasonable,” said Tucker, who noted they include nutrients beneficial to eye and bone health. “But I recommend people avoid eating three-egg omelets every day. Nutrition is all about moderation and balance.”

Research results also determined that study participants’ exercise regimen and overall diet quality, including the amount and type of fat they consumed, did not change the link between cholesterol in one’s diet and risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

“This is a strong study because the modeling adjusted for factors such as the quality of the diet,” Tucker said. “Even for people on healthy diets, the harmful effect of higher intake of eggs and cholesterol was consistent.”

Source: EurekAlert!


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Study: Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption Do Not Increase the Risk of Stroke

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that a moderately high intake of dietary cholesterol or consumption of up to one egg per day is not associated with an elevated risk of stroke. Furthermore, no association was found in carriers of the APOE4 phenotype, which affects cholesterol metabolism and is remarkably common among the Finnish population. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Findings from earlier studies addressing the association of dietary cholesterol or egg intake with the risk of stroke have been contradictory. Some studies have found an association between high dietary cholesterol intake and an increased risk of stroke, while others have associated the consumption of eggs, which are high in cholesterol, with a reduced risk of stroke. For most people, dietary cholesterol plays a very small role in affecting their serum cholesterol levels. However, in carriers of the apolipoprotein E phenotype 4 – which significantly impacts cholesterol metabolism – the effect of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol levels is greater. In Finland, the prevalence of APOE4, which is a hereditary variant, is exceptionally high, with approximately one third of the population presenting as carriers. Yet, research data on the association between a high intake of dietary cholesterol and the risk of stroke in this population group has not been available until now.

The dietary habits of 1,950 men aged between 42 and 60 years with no baseline diagnosis of a cardiovascular disease were assessed at the onset the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, KIHD, in 1984–1989 at the University of Eastern Finland. APOE phenotype data were available for 1,015 of the men participating in the study. Of those, 32% were known carriers of APOE4.

During a follow-up of 21 years, 217 men were diagnosed with stroke. The study found that neither dietary cholesterol nor egg consumption was associated with the risk of stroke – not even in carriers of APOE4.

The findings suggest that moderate cholesterol intake or daily egg consumption are not associated with the risk of stroke, even in persons who are genetically predisposed to a greater effect of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol levels. In the highest control group, the study participants had an average daily dietary cholesterol intake of 520 mg and they consumed an average of one egg per day, which means that the findings cannot be generalised beyond these levels. One egg contains approximately 200 mg of cholesterol. In this study, about a fourth of the total dietary cholesterol consumed came from eggs. Furthermore, the generalisability of this study is also weakened by the fact that the study population did not have a pre-existing cardiovascular disease at baseline and the size of the study population was relatively small. Therefore, the findings of the study should be verified in a larger cohort as well as in people with a pre-existing cardiovascular disease, who are currently advised to limit their intake of cholesterol and eggs.

Source: University of Eastern Finland