So many stories circulate about eggs – some true but many are nonsense. We find it strange that chefs are generally not taught anything in their catering training about egg production – particularly free-range methods.
One of the myths is that cholesterol levels in eggs are high and therefore bad for consumers. Doctors used to believe this and warned patients to restrict the numbers of eggs in their diet. But research over the years has demonstrated that to be bunkum.
Certainly eggs have a significant level of cholesterol. The average large egg contains 212 milligrams of cholesterol. But, for most people, only a small amount of the cholesterol in food passes into the blood. Saturated and trans fats have much bigger effects on blood cholesterol levels.
There is absolutely no evidence that eating eggs is bad for your heart. The only large study to look at the impact of egg consumption on heart disease—not on cholesterol levels or other intermediaries—found no connection between the two.
Another myth is that free range eggs always have a vibrant, bright yellow or almost orange yolk colour. The reality is that yolk colour depends on what the hens have been eating. So at certain times of the year when there is little green feed around in the paddocks, yolk colour will not be very deep. On real free range farms, the hens can pick and choose what they eat – so the colour of yolks in any pack of eggs will always vary. If the yolks are a uniform bright colour, the hens are almost certainly being fed colouring additives. Those manufactured additives are often imported from factories in China and added to feed to fool consumers. As well as colouring pigmenters, those operators generally also include meat meal in the hens' diet (the meat meal is often derived from poultry.) In those cases, the hens are eating exactly the same food as hens kept in cages - so, of course, there is no difference in how the eggs taste, look, or their nutrition.
There is a general view, supported by the mainstream egg industry that all eggs have the same nutritional values. But research has shown that the nutrients from the varied diet of free range hens are transferred into the eggs and the nutritional profile of free range eggs is significantly better in many ways.
More studies need to be done, but there is growing evidence that eggs from hens raised on pasture have nutritional benefits over the factory farm versions.
In 1974, the British Journal of Nutrition found that pastured eggs had 50 percent more folic acid and 70 percent more vitamin B12 than eggs from factory farm hens.
In 1988, Artemis Simopoulos, co-author of The Omega Diet, found pastured eggs in Greece contained 13 times more Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than U.S. commercial eggs. A 1998 study in Animal Feed Science and Technology found that pastured eggs had higher Omega 3 and vitamin E than eggs from caged hens.
A 1999 study by Barb Gorski at Pennsylvania State University found that eggs from pastured birds had 10 percent less fat, 34 percent less cholesterol, 40 percent more vitamin A, and four times the Omega 3 compared to the standard USDA data.
In 2003, Heather Karsten at Pennsylvania State University found that pastured eggs had three times more Omega 3, 220 % more vitamin E and 62 % more vitamin A than eggs from caged hens.
In 2007, the US magazine Mother Earth News analysed eggs from 14 free range flocks and compared the results to nutritional data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for commercial eggs, the kind found in most supermarkets.
The free range eggs had:
- 1⁄3 less cholesterol
- 1⁄4 less saturated fat
- 2⁄3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more Omega 3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
Egg yolks are also a known source of lutein and zeaxanthin, but the yolks in eggs from caged chickens, fed only grains or processed pellets, contain little.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two important antioxidants for the health of your eyes . They help to protect the delicate macula region of the eye from damaging UV and high-intensity blue light.
Fresh eggs are best for cooking. While it is true that fresh eggs just a day or two after being laid, are best for many dishes – certainly for poaching and making sponge cakes. Eggs which are at least a week old are best for hard boiling. It is much easier to peel off the shells.
Many egg farms label their eggs with a best before date of at least six weeks from the date of packing which means that the eggs are often two months old before they reach supermarket shelves. Those farms which are concerned about the freshness of the eggs bought by customers stamp cartons with a best before date of four weeks from the the date of lay. Properly stored in cool conditions, eggs will last for six weeks or more, at which stage they should still be fine for most purposes except poaching and frying etc.
Free range eggs are a good source of dietary vitamin D, each egg from hens that spend most of the day outdoors contains about 10% of the required daily value . The vitamin D is concentrated in the yolk. along with most other nutrients such as folic acid.
Research in Britain has indicated that when hens are exposed to direct sunlight, they tend to lay paler shelled eggs. All eggs are initially white, and shell colour is the result of the pigments called porphyrins being deposited while the eggs are in the process of formation. In the case of the Rhode Island Red, the brown pigment,derived from haemoglobin in the blood, is what gives the shell its light brown colour. Araucana hens produce a pigment called oocyanin, which is a product of bile formation, and results in blue or bluish-green shelled eggs.
There is no relationship between egg quality and shell colour. Nutritionally they are the same, but it's always surprising how many people still think that brown eggs come from free-range hens while white ones come from caged hens!
There is a widely-held view that watery or runny egg whites show that the egg is old. That is true most of the time but other factors can impact on the viscosity of albumen. Certain foods can have an effect and chicken ailments such as infectious bronchitis can impact on albumen quality while having no other implications for the eggs.
Some buyers look for logos or accreditation details in the belief that will give them an assurance that the eggs really are free range. Unfortunately there are no accreditation programs in Australia which cover all aspects of consumer expectations for free range egg production. Some of the accreditation bodies are only concerned with animal welfare issues. Others may appear to have good standards but they don't have an effective auditing process. Quite often the standards which they claim are not enforced which makes a mockery of their logo.
A case was uncovered a couple of years ago where more than 70% of the eggs sold by one Victorian 'free range' farm accredited by two bodies were sourced from unaccredited farms interstate; One accreditation body took no action. Although the other temporarily suspended accreditation, the farm hardly missed a beat and was back in business within weeks – supplying a major supermarket and displaying the logos of the two bodies as if nothing had happened. There are many other myths about nutrition.
How the Media Lies to Us About Nutrition
by Jane Sandwood
The media is flooded with articles about health and nutrition. Around the globe, it seems that there is a trend in the food industry to promote certain diets at certain times, leaving us confused as to which types of eating are actually best for our bodies. In many ways, this makes sense, since the media must keep up with their source of income: advertising and sponsorship. Eggs are one of the victims of the media’s nutritional fabrications due to their high proportion of cholesterol.
However, it has been proven that eggs do not raise the cholesterol level in the blood. Rather, eggs contain a variety of important nutrients that are essential to health, such as:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin B12
Freeranger Eggs is one of very few genuine freerange egg farms in Australia.